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Letter 1195

John Hancock to Henry C St John (c. December 1877)

Draft letter to St John mentioning that he has decided to display the specimen of the large Japanese Spider Crab without repairing the legs. He discusses a collection of Japanese bird skins St John sent to him from his voyages on the Sylvia. Hancock advises him against reprinting his father’s book, the Tour in Sutherland thinking it will be a costly exercise.




Dear St. John,

I did not model the Big Crab’s legs.1  It was thought better not to have any artificial work about the the specimen.  In a Natural History point of view it best avoid medling [sic] I think it decidetly [sic] to keep a[s]a rule the specimens as they come to hand.

The Pheasant2 I can make nothing else of it thanVersicola but I maybe wrong[.] I had only the Fauna Japonica to go from — When I examined the bird I said to Mr. Howse3who happened to be with me at the time that I believe that this is a Hen bird taking on the male plumage.  I do believe it is so –  I dont think we shall be able to determine the species until we have some specimens to compare with it –  just after I wrote you last (the same day in fact) I made out the name [p.2] of the Scarlet finch like bird[.] — It is figured in Dr. Bree’s Birds of Europe4at Page 76 — called Rosy Bullfinch Parrhula [sic Pyrrhula] rosea, Temm.  The Dr. speaks of it as a Northern species found in “Northern Asia principally in Siberia” from what he says I should say it is a rare bird –  The Snipes are most difficult birds to make out,  when you comenorth I can show you several varieties.  I should very much like to know if the Snipe you speak of as “G. Australis”5 and which you say drums in the breeding season has the narrow feathers at the side of the tail or are the feathers wide like our Common Snipe?

The Duck I noted as Wigeon I have examined again and dont doubt it being Wigeon but [p.3] is so I dont dont doubt, but on a closer examination I think it is a young male not a female

You are right “Galericulata” is the Mandarin Duck.6

With regard to your bringing out a second edition of your father’s “Tour in Sutherland” I scarcely know what how to advise.7  I fear it would be a dangerous speculation.  I think if Murray had thought it would pay he would have undertaking it himself — but I shall make some enquiry about the matter –

I should be very sorry if you were to do it & lose by it money by the publication of the work[.]

I inclose a Bank bill for £10 in payment for the skins.  At 7 days when you get the money you need only sign your name at the back[.]


[Short note from J H Gurney to John Hancock]






15 Dec 1877

My dear sir

I am very much obliged for yours of the 13th & for the trouble which you have kindly taken[.]

I am yours faithfully | J H Gurney8 [signature]




1.  The Japanese Spider Crab, Macrocheira kaempferi, prepared by Hancock was displayed in a large glass case in the invertebrate gallery of the Hancock Museum.

2.  St John had sent Hancock a consignment of Japanese bird skins which included the specimen of the pheasant, and he was using Fauna Japonica to identify them.

3.  Richard Howse (c.1821-1901) was Honorary Curator of the Museum from 1864 until his death and he was a stalwart friend and supporter of both John Hancock and the Hancock Museum. His interest was mainly in Geology and Palaeontology.

4.  Charles Robert Bree (1811–86) was a Medical practitioner and zoologist. Hancock is referring to his book A history of the birds of Europe not observed in the British Isles.  Vols.I – IV 1859-1863. Published in London by Groombridge and Sons.

A copy of the 2nd edition (1875-1876) is held in the NHSN library.

5.  “G. Australis” is Latham’s Snipe now classified as Gallinago hardwickii.

6.  “Galericulata” or Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata.

7.   “Tour in Sutherland”. In 1849 Henry’s father Charles St John published A tour in Sutherlandshire, with extracts from the fieldbooks of a sportsman and naturalist. London, J. Murray.

Hancock advises against republishing but Henry ignores his advice and published St. John, Charles Tour in Sutherland (1849, 2nd ed., with recollections by Captain H. St. John) in 1884.

8.  John Henry Gurney (1819-1890), a naturalist based in Norfolk who corresponded frequently with Hancock on the subject of ornithology.