Ref NoMS/140b
TitleOriginal sketches on the Amazon - Alfred Russel Wallace
AdminHistoryAlfred Russel Wallace (1823 - 1913) was a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, and biologist. He is best known for independently conceiving the theory of evolution through natural selection; his paper on the subject was jointly published with some of Charles Darwin's writings in 1858.

Wallace was born in Kensington Cottage near Usk, Monmouthshire, England on 8 January 1823 to Thomas Vere Wallace and Mary Ann Wallace (née Greenell), the eighth of nine children, three of whom did not survive to adulthood. In 1828 the family moved to Hertford and Wallace attended Hale's Grammar School. In c. 1835 the family's financial situation took a turn for the worse. As a result, Wallace was forced to leave school at age 14 and go and live with his older brother, John, who was working in London as a carpenter. By 1837 Wallace moved to Bedfordshire to live and work with his eldest brother, William, who owned a land-surveying company. In 1841 the brothers moved to Neath, Wales, where Wallace began to develop an interest in natural history. In 1843, following a decrease in the amount of surveying work available, Wallace applied to the Collegiate School in Leicester where he taught drafting, surveying, English, and arithmetic.

In 1847 - 1848 Wallace suggested to his friend, Henry Walter Bates, that they travel to Brazil to collect specimens of birds, insects and other animals which they can sell to collectors and for their own private collections. Wallace had been inspired by W. H. Edward's book 'A Voyage Up the River Amazon'. He also wanted to look in to the theory of evolution, which he had become interested in after reading Robert Chambers' anonymously published book 'Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation', which discussed the theory of evolution (then known as transmutation). The two men set off by ship from Liverpool to Pará (Belém) on the 26 April 1848, arriving on the 28 May. After only a few months they decided to collect in different areas with Wallace focussing his activities in the middle Amazon and Rio Negro. Whilst there he drafted a map of this mighty river using the skills he had learnt as a land surveyor which was later published by the Royal Geographical Society. In 1852 Wallace decided to return to Britain due to ill health but a fire on the return ship home meant that the majority of his notes and specimens were destroyed. Wallace and his crew were rescued after 10 days of drifting on the open sea.

In 1854 Wallace went on a second collecting expedition to the Malay Archipelago (now Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and East Timor) with a young assistant, Charles Allen. Wallace spent nearly eight years in the region, undertaking sixty or seventy separate journeys resulting in a combined total of around 14,000 miles of travel. He collected almost 110,000 insects, 7500 shells, 8050 bird skins, and 410 mammal and reptile specimens, including probably more than 5000 species new to science. In February 1855 Wallace wrote a paper called "Sarawak Law" which looked at the subject of evolution. In February 1858 the idea of natural selection as the mechanism of evolutionary change occurred to Wallace and he wrote a detailed essay explaining his theory. He sent this, along with a covering letter, to Charles Darwin, who he knew from correspondence was interested in the subject of evolution. Wallace asked Darwin to pass the essay on to Charles Lyell, an influential scientist of day, if Darwin thought it was sufficiently interesting. Darwin, who had been working on the same theory for the past 20 years, immediately sought advice from his friends, Lyella and Joseph Hooker. They decided to present Wallace's essay (without his knowledge), along with two unpublished excerpts from Darwin's writings on the subject, to a meeting of the Linnean Society of London on 1 July 1858. These documents were published together in the Society's journal on 20 August of the same year as the paper "On the Tendency of Species to Form Varieties; And On the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection".

Wallace returned to England 4 years later in 1862 and in the spring of 1866 he married Annie, the twenty-year-old daughter of his friend the botanist William Mitten. Two of their children, Violet and William, survived to adulthood, whilst a third (Herbert Spencer) died in infancy. He spent the rest of his life defending and promoting the theory of natural selection and working on a very wide variety of other subjects. He wrote more than 1000 articles and 22 books, the best known being The Malay Archipelago, The Geographical Distribution of Animals, Island Life and Darwinism. Honours awarded for the many important contributions he made to biology, geography, geology and anthropology include: the Gold Medal (Société de Géographie); the Founder's Medal (Royal Geographical Society); the Darwin-Wallace and Linnean Gold Medals (Linnean Society); the Copley, Darwin and Royal Medals (Royal Society); and the Order of Merit (the greatest honor that can be given to a civilian by the ruling British monarch).

He died at his home in Broadstone on 7 November 1913.
Description20 pencil drawings by Alfred Russel Wallace in paper wrapper entitled "Some of my original sketches on the Amazon". Includes a 'Linnean Society of London, Archives' stamp on cover, dated 2 December 1947.

The paper wrapper holding the first drawings has text written on it ("channel among granite rocks on Rio Negro"), 2 drawing and the title: "Wallace-9 sketches placed in MS of Palms".

All of the sketches are numbered, and 6 have the following titles on the reverse in black ink:
- "Sketch No. 2, Trees in the virgin forest"
- "Sketch No. 3, Buttress [tree] in the Virgin Forest"
- "Sketch No. 7, Barra do rio negro, from the old fort."
- "Sketch No. 8, Tamarind trees at [Manaquery]"
- "Sketch No. 9 Calabash tree at [Manaquery]"
- "Sketch No. 10 Serras of [Curicariari]"

The remaining drawings are of household items (a basket, pot, boat, paddle, loom, etc.), symbols, patterns etc. with numbers on the reverse in black ink: "No.12", "No.19", "No.20", "No.21", "No.22", "No.23", "No.24", "No.25", "No.26", "No.27", "No.28", "No.29", "No.30"
Extent21 drawings
Related MaterialMS/140a, MS/140c, MS/140d, MS/140e, MS/140e
Creator NameWallace, Alfred Russel
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