"I begin to feel rather dissatisfied with a mere local collection - little is to be learnt by it. I shd like to take some one family, to study thoroughly - principally with a view to the theory of the origin of species. By that means I am strongly of opinion that some definite results might be arrived at."
[From a letter sent by Wallace to Henry Walter Bates in 1847]
"...there is no more admirable character in the history of science." Sir David Attenborough
*SADLY THE FUNDING FOR OUR PROJECT IS ENDING ON THE 31ST AUGUST 2020*
*WE STILL HAVE A HUGE AMOUNT OF WORK TO DO AND ARE SEEKING PRIVATE DONATIONS*
*IF YOU CAN HELP, PLEASE CONTACT Dr GEORGE BECCALONI AT email@example.com*
Welcome to the Wallace Correspondence Project's (WCP) homepage. This ongoing project aims to locate, digitize, transcribe, interpret and publish the surviving correspondence and other manuscripts of the important 19th century scientist Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913). Wallace has very many claims to fame, not least that he is the 'father' of evolutionary biogeography and the co-discoverer with Charles Darwin of the process of evolution by natural selection. With the possible exception of Darwin, probably no one else in the history of biology has made as many seminal contributions as Wallace, especially to evolutionary biology, the foundation of the whole discipline (CLICK HERE). For more information about his life and work CLICK HERE. A selection of noteworthy letters and other manuscripts are listed HERE.
Wallace's letters are a biographical treasure chest, which provides a far better picture of the 'real' Wallace than his heavily edited and censured published writings. They are also key to gaining a deeper understanding of his scientific and other work: how and why his ideas arose, and how they developed and changed over time. To date, no one has read and studied more than a small fraction of the letters, largely due to the difficulty and expense of obtaining copies of them.
About 5,700 letters to and from Wallace survive, and these are held by c. 240 institutions/private individuals worldwide. Around half of them are in the collections of the British Library (c. 1600) and London's Natural History Museum (c. 1200). Smaller collections are present in other libraries in Britain and the USA, and there are a scattering of letters in other institutions and private collections across the Western world.
The WCP is unlocking this treasure chest, by gathering the letters together and transcribing them so that they can be more easily read and information within them found using electronic searches for words and phrases. The vast amount of 'new' information contained in the letters could be the basis of numerous articles, scholarly papers, PhD theses and the first highly detailed biography.
The WCP's online archive of Wallace's letters and other manuscripts is currently Wallace Letters Online (WLO), which was launched in January 2013. However, WLO has developed a number of bugs and it has not been possible to update it since 2016, so we are planning to soon use the Epsilon digital archive instead. The WCP team is currently working on volume 1 of The Correspondence of Alfred Russel Wallace, which will contain all known letters from his childhood up until his return from the 'Malay Archipelago' in 1862. We estimate that Wallace's correspondence will ultimately fill 7-10 thick volumes, each taking about 2 years to produce.
If you know of any manuscripts which you think we might not yet have found (e.g. letters in private collections) then we would be very grateful if you could contact us. Please CLICK HERE to send us a message.
Common variations of Wallace's name:
Wallace; Alfred Wallace; A. R. Wallace; Alfred R. Wallace; Russel Wallace; Alfred Russell Wallace [sic]
This site is maintained by George Beccaloni Director of the Wallace Correspondence Project and CEO of the Alfred Russel Wallace Trust