WCP1703

Letter (WCP1703.1585)

[1]

Ampanam

August. 21st. 1856

My dear Mr. Stevens

Another month has passed since I wrote to you & there is still no chance of a passage to Macassar [Makassar]. Having missed one opportunity by being away from the village[,] I am afraid to go out in the country any more & here there are nothing but dusty roads, & paddy fields for miles around producing no insects or birds worth collecting. It is really astonishing & will be almost incredible to many persons at home that a tropical country when cultivated, should produce so little for the collector. The worst collecting ground in England would produce ten times as many species of beetles as can be found here, and even our common English butterflies are finer & more numerous than those of Ampanam [Ampenan] in the present dry season. A walk of several hours with my net will produce perhaps 2 — 3 species of Chrysomela & Coccinella, & a Cicindela, and two or three Hemiptera & flies; and every day the same species will occur. In an uncultivated district which I have visited in the South part of the Island I did indeed find insects rather more numerous, but two months assiduous collecting have only produced me 80 species of Coleoptera! Why there is not a spot in England where the same number could not be obtained in a few days in spring. Butterflies were rather better for I obtained 38 species the majority however being Pieridae. Of the others, Papilio Peranthus is the most beautiful. The

The Birds have however interested me much more than the insects, as they are proportionally much more numerous, and throw great light on the laws of Geographical distribution of Animals in the East. The Islands of Baly [Bali] & Lombock for instance, though of nearly the same [2] size, of the same soil[,] aspect[,] elevation & climate and within sight of each other, yet differ considerably in their productions, and in fact belong to two quite distinct Zoological provinces, of which they form the extreme limits. As an instance I may mention the Cockatoos, a group of birds confined to Australia & the Moluccas, but quite unknown in Java[,] Borneo[,] Sumatra & Malacca. One species however (Plyctolophus sulphureus) is abundant in Lombock but is unknown in Baly, the island of Lombock forming the extreme eastern limit of its range & that of the whole family. Many other species illustrate the same fact & I am preparing a short account of them for publication. My collection here consist of 68 species of Birds, about 20 of which are probably not found west of the island being species either found in Timor & Sumbawa or quite hitherto undescribed. I have here for the first time met with many interesting birds whose structure & habits it has been a great pleasure to study; such as the Artamidae and the genera Ptilotis, Tropidorhynchus, Plyctolophus & Megapodius.

The islands of Baly & Lombock are inhabited by Malayan races, closely allied to the Javanese— Baly has several Rajahs who are under the protection of the Dutch; Lombock has one Rajah who governs the whole, & is quite independent.1 These two islands are wonderfully cultivated, in fact they are probably among the best cultivated in the world. I was perfectly astonished when on riding 30 miles into the interior I beheld the whole country cultivated like a garden, the whole being cut into terraces, & every patch surrounded by channels, so that the whole can any part can be flooded at pleasure— Sometimes a hollow has the appearance of a vast amphitheatre; or a hill side, a gigantic staircase; & hundreds of [3] square miles of an undulating country have been thus rendered capable of irrigation, to effect which almost every stream has been diverted from its channel & its water distributed over the country. The soil is a fine volcanic mould of the richest description and the result of such a mode of cultivation is an astonishing fertility. The ground is scarcely ever unoccupied; crops of tobacco, indian corn, sugar cane, beans, & cucumbers alternate with the rice, & give at every season a green & smiling appearance to the island. It is only on the hills summits of the hills & on the tops of the undulations where water can not be brought that the ground is left uncultivated, but in these places a short turf gives food to the cattle & horses which are very abundant, & clumps of bamboo with forest & fruit trees have give all the appearance of an extensive park, & are a pleasing contrast to the more regularly cultivated districts. I have been informed by persons capable of forming a judgement, that in the best cultivated parts of Java so much labour has not been expended on the soil, & even the industrious Chinese can show nothing to surpass it. More than half the Island of Lombock consists of rugged volcanic mountains which are quite incapable of cultivation yet it exports more than 20,000 tons of rice annually besides great quantities of Tobacco, Coffee, Cotton, & Hides. Our manufacturers & Capitalists are on the look out for a new cotton producing district. Here is one to their hands. The islands of Baly[,] Lombock & Sumbawa can produce from ten to twenty thousand tons of cotton annually. It costs here uncleaned about 1½ cents a pound. The qualities are various, some I believe very good, so it can easily be calculated whether after cleaning it would pay. [4] So far will do for Newman2,3 I think but first send it to my mother4 or sister5 as I have no time to write much to them. Tell Mr. Saunders6 that a Mr. Carter7 with whom I am living has applied for the situation of Lloyd’s Agent8 here (100 sq. rigged vessels come here yearly) & I shall be obliged by his using his interest to get it for him. He is just the man, has been 18 years in the East as a commander of vessels & as a merchant, is well educated & would give any information that might be required of him. He would like to enter into the cotton trade if any one would communicate with him as to the expense of cleaning machine &c. & he would send them samples of the cotton. Show Mr Saunders this, perhaps he knows some one interested in it.

I am now sending off to Singapore a case with my collections here.

Birds for sale about 300 — Butterflies in papers —- 150
Mammalia ————————————— 9 Beetles ————————— 250 465
Land and freshwater shells —— 100. Miscellaneous ————- 65
a few sponges for Mr Bowerbank.9

My private collection of Birds are mostly in boxes separate & need not be opened: among the others, all which have a red stripe on the tickets, are private. Select a good series of the butterflies for me— The beetles I have separated.

Among the birds are a fine blue & white red billed kingfisher I think quite new, the pitta, bee-eater & orioles are also rare or new. Of the Malacca birds I have sent two or three of each for locality specimens. There are also some good specimens of the pigeons & generally the birds are very good specimens & I have taken great care to pack them. The domestic duck var[iety] is for Mr. Darwin10 & he would perhaps also like the jungle cock, which is often domesticated here & is doubtless one of the originals of the domestic breeds of poultry.

You may insure the collection for £60 which I think is the lowest sum it will fetch as no collection of birds has ever been made here before & I am sure there are many new and rare things among them.

Hoping soon to reach Macassar & to find good account from you there[.]

I remain | Yours faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

Samuel Stevens Esq.

Ngurah Ketut Karangasem (fl.1830-70). Rajah of Lombok 1839-70.
Newman, Edward (1801-1876). British entomologist and botanist. Editor of the Zoologist 1843-76.
The text of the letter from 'Another month has passed' to 'cleaning it would pay' was published in the Zoologist (1857). (Wallace, A. R. 1857. Proceedings of Natural History Collectors in Foreign Countries. The Zoologist, 15: 5414-5416.)
Wallace (née Greenell), Mary Ann (1792-1868). Mother of ARW.
Sims (née Wallace), Frances ("Fanny") (1812-1893). Sister of ARW; teacher.
Saunders, William Wilson (1809-1879). British insurance broker, entomologist and botanist.
Carter, Joseph. (fl. 1850) British licensed trader and commander of vessels.
ARW appealed to William Wilson Saunders as an underwriter at Llyods of London who worked with the company from 1832 to 1873. Llyod's of London was an insurance company founded in 1686 which specialised in British maritime insurance and kept a registry of shipping published as Llyod's Register. (Martin, F. 1876. The History of Lloyd's and of Marine Insurance in Great Britain. London: Macmillan and Co.)
Bowerbank, James Scott (1797-1877). British geologist, zoologist and whisky manufacturer. President of the Microscopical Society of London 1846-7.
Darwin, Charles Robert (1809-1882). British naturalist, geologist and author, notably of On the Origin of Species (1859).

Published letter (WCP1703.4375)

[1]1 [p. 5414]

Mr. A. R. Wallace.1 —"Ampanam, Lombock, August 21, 1856.—Another month has passed since I wrote to you, and there is still no chance of a passage to Macassar; having missed one opportunity by [2] [p. 5415] being away from the village, I am afraid to go out in the country any more, and here there are nothing but dusty roads and paddy fields for miles around, producing no insects or birds worth collecting: it is really astonishing, and will be almost incredible to many persons at home, that a tropical country when cultivated should produce so little for the collector: the worst collecting-ground in England would produce ten times as many species of beetles as can be found here, and even our common English butterflies are finer and more numerous than those of Ampanam in the present dry season; a walk of several hours with my net will produce perhaps two or three species of Chrysomela and Coccinella, and a Cicindela, and two or three Hemiptera and flies; and every day the same species will occur. In an uncultivated district which I have visited, in the south part of the island, I did indeed find insects rather more numerous, but two months’ assiduous collecting have only produced me eighty species of Coleoptera! why there is not a spot in England where the same number could not be obtained in a few days in spring. Butterflies were rather better, for I obtained thirty-eight species, the majority, however, being Pieridae; of the others, Papilio Peranthus is the most beautiful.

"The birds have, however, interested me much more than the insects, as they are proportionably much more numerous, and throw great light on the laws of geographical distribution of animals in the East. The Islands of Baly and Lombock, for instance, though of nearly the same size, of the same soil, aspect, elevation and climate, and within sight of each other, yet differ considerably in their productions, and, in fact, belong to two quite distinct zoological provinces, of which they form the extreme limits. As an instance, I may mention the cockatoos, a group of birds confined to Australia and the Moluccas, but quite unknown in Java, Borneo, Sumatra and Malacca; one species, however (Plyctolophus sulphureus), is abundant in Lombock, but is unknown in Baly, the island of Lombock forming the extreme western limit of its range and that of the whole family. Many other species illustrate the same fact, and I am preparing a short account of them for publication. My collection here consists of sixty-eight species of birds, about twenty of which are probably not found west of the island, being species either found in Timor and Sumbawa or hitherto undescribed. I have here, for the first time, met with many interesting birds, whose structure and habits it has been a great pleasure to study, such as the Artamidae and the genera Ptilotis, Tropidorhynchus, Plyctolophus and Megapodius.

[3] [p. 5416] "The islands of Baly and Lombock are inhabited by Malayan races, closely allied to the Javanese. Baly has several rajahs, who are under the protection of the Dutch; Lombock has one rajah, who governs the whole, and is quite independent. These two islands are wonderfully cultivated,—in fact, they are probably among the best cultivated in the world: I was perfectly astonished when, on riding thirty miles into the interior, I beheld the country cultivated like a garden, the whole being cut into terraces, and every patch surrounded by channels, so that any part can be flooded at pleasure; sometimes a hollow has the appearance of a vast amphitheatre, or a hill-side of a gigantic staircase, and hundreds of square miles of an undulated country have been thus rendered capable of irrigation, to effect which almost every stream has been diverted from its channel and its waters distributed over the country. The soil is a fine volcanic mould of the richest description, and the result of such a mode of cultivation is an astonishing fertility; the ground is scarcely ever unoccupied; crops of tobacco, Indian corn, sugar cane, beans and cucumbers, alternate with the rice, and give at every season a green and smiling appearance to the island: it is only on the summits of the hills and on the tops of the undulations, where water cannot be brought, that the ground is left uncultivated, but in these places a short turf gives food to the cattle and horses, which are very abundant, and clumps of bamboos with forest and fruit trees have all the appearance of an extensive park, and a pleasing contrast to the more regularly cultivated districts. I have been informed by parties capable of forming a judgment that in the best cultivated parts of Java so much labour has not been expended on the soil, and even the industrious Chinese can show nothing to surpass it: more than half the Island of Lombock consists of rugged volcanic mountains, which are quite incapable of cultivation, yet it exports more than 20,000 tons of rice annually, besides great quantities of tobacco, coffee, cotton and hides. Our manufacturers and capitalists are on the look-out for a new cotton-producing district: here is one to their hands. The islands of Baly, Lombock and Sumbawa can produce from ten to twenty thousand tons of cotton annually; it costs here uncleaned about 1 1/2 cent a-pound; the qualities are various,—some, I believe, very good, so it can easily be calculated whether, after cleaning, it would pay.

"A. R. Wallace."

Note Appearing in the Original Work

1. Communicated by Mr. S. Stevens. [on p. 5414]

Please cite as “WCP1703,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 8 August 2022, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP1703