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Letter 1054

Henry C St John to John Hancock (1 July 1878)

St John writes from London where he has been visiting the British Museum and examining his collection of dredging samples taken whilst sailing around the Japanese coastline. He mentions Professor Albert Günther.



1878   Capt. H. C. St. John [Hancock’s Hand]


1 July


Dear Hancock


I ran up here for a few days, retg. [returning] tomorrow or next day.


– Wandering about the British Museum I came up the Pheasant amongst the group of Chinese & Japanese Birds of that tribe. There stood the bird named P. Elegans1 China.


[p.2] Y[ou]r. specimen I shot on an Island off the west coast of Nipon. Just where a china bird would be found. I think there is no doubt about it –

In my last dredgings, about 30 at least new species of Crustacea have come to light — the people on this branch are delighted with the things — I made their mouths I fear water [p.3] telling them of your big crab3 — “Could I not get another one” — They have two specimens but not like y[ou]rs. – Pro. Guntur2 is going to give me a copy of their catalogue of all known birds 3 vols are I think already out –


I wish you had still been in Town & we could have met again –


Hoping you are all well & with kind regards to y[ou]r. sister

Y[our]s. Truly | H. C. St. John [signature]




1. “Phasianus Elegans” Common Pheasant or Stone’s Pheasant Phasianus colchicus elegans (Elliot, 1870) native to Western Central China.


2. Professor Albert Günther, was Keeper of Zoology at the Natural History Museum in
London. He was appointed after the death of John Edward Gray in 1875 and held the post until 1895.


The Catalogues St John refers to are:-

Catalogue of the Accipitres, or diurnal birds of prey, in the collection of the British Museum. (1874).

Catalogue of the Striges, or nocturnal birds of prey, in the collection of the British museum. (1875).

Catalogue of the Passeriformes, or perching birds, in the collection of the British museum. Coliomorphae… (1877).


3. The giant Japanese Spider Crab, Macrocheira kaempferi, collected by St John and prepared by Hancock was on display in a large glass case in the Newcastle Museum Westgate Road. It was later transferred to the invertebrate gallery of the New Museum of Natural History (Hancock Museum) at Barras Bridge in 1884.

See Letter 1048 for more on the crab.