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Letter 1206

John Hancock to Henry C St John (12 December 1877)

Hancock’s manuscript draft letter informing St John that the giant Japanese Spider Crab is now housed in a large glass case on display in the Newcastle Museum at the rear of the Literary and Philosophical Society Building, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne. He has identified the 28 bird specimens from Japan sent by St John and sold 10 of them to William Brooks while keeping the rest for his own collection. On the verso is a letter from John Dixon.



Copy.[Hancock’s Hand]

Copy to Capt St. John  [Hancock’s Hand]


Newcastle on  Tyne

12th Dec. 1877



Dear St John,


I have been so hard at work for the last few days that I have not known what to do first, or your letter of the 9th should have had an earlier reply.

The seeds of the Fern leafed Tree had better be addressed to the care of Mr. Jos. Wright Museum, Newcastle on Tyne[.] Mr Howse is the one who wants to examine them, but after the specimens will be placed in the Museum Collection.

I saw Mr H.[owse] last night and he says if any parts of them that were in Bottles are [3 word illeg. crossed out] [p.2] left he would like to have them forexamination. The seeds of course will be very interesting.

The great Crab is now put together, and is now in a large case in Our Museum. It took me about 10 days to attach the joints & fin[ish] him & place him in the case. He is of course of attracting great attention attraction numerous visitors have paid their respects to his majesty already although he has only been [1 word illeg.] to view for two or three days.  I will send you a Paper with an account of him in a day or two. — You will be receiving a note of thanks from the committee.

With regard to the [p.3] Japanese birds — When I was with you at Thornbury you may recollect I said there was a friend of mine from India who wished to have any specimens of Japanese birds we could spare & before he left for India a few weeks ago I let him have 10 of the least interesting for wh. he gave £1 -15 – 0.

These were at first £8.

Last night I set to work and named I set to work to name the 18 & all of which I have received a naming with the exception of one — I have inclosed the list with some remarks –

Should it quite meet with your approval [p.5] as I should like to place the 18 skins in my own Collection. With Mr Brook’s £1-15 – 0 (who was the gentleman who gotthe [2 words illeg.] skins) I will put £8 – 5 – 0 to it w[hic]h. will make £10 in all — If you agree to this I will send the money or will give you it when you come north which I hope will be in the Spring — If you don’t like this arrangement mind don’t hesitate to say –

Should you like a list of the birds you brought from Japan in year got in 1873 I shall gladly do it for you make it out for you & send you –

I have lately seen a very large collection of skins & eggs of birds collected this year in Russian Europe amounting to 1050 skins & 500 egg several of which have come into my possession.  I have a [1 word illeg.]  to show you

JH [signature]



List of birds brought from Japan by Capt. St John in 1877

√1 Haliaetus Albicilla5

√X Falco peregrinus (Gm) (young) hardly any no difference}

between this & the European –                                 }

X1 Whites Thrush  Turdus Aureus, Hollandre,  }

Same as the specimens killed in           }

Britain 14 feathers in tail — 6                            }

X 2 Columba (carpophage) janthina7

X 1 Scarlet-finch —     cannot make this out [pencil]

X 3 Alcedo (Halcyon) Coromando Major.8

X 1 Large Swift Acanthylis gigantea Tem.9

√X1 Snipe, size of Scolopax solitaria

but differs in the side feathers &

the tail being slightly narrower than ours –10

X 1 Painted Snipe Rhynchea bengalensis, L 11

X 1 Whimbrel Numenius phoeopus Lin.12

just like ours.



12 √X Turnstone Strepsilas interpres

Summer plumage — no difference to ours.

√X Night Heron (young). first plumage        very little different to ours — [pencil]

√X Duck like female wigeon        just like European specimens

look at this compare with others. [pencil]

√X Mandarin Anas galericulata [pencil] Duck ♂.14

√X Pheasant ♂.      P versicolor? [pencil]15

√1 White-tailed Eagle young }    Haliaetus albicilla 16

quite like British bird —        }



10_     Brooks got at 3/6     £1–15 — 0

28       For the 18 birds –      8 — 5 — 0

£10 — 0 — 0




John Dixon to John Hancock 

[11 December 1877]



Dixon is giving a lecture at the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne and requests that Hancock attends.



The Choubra,


Dec 11/77

My Dear Mr Hancock

Im to lecture at the L & P on Thursday — I hope you will be there as I’d like to see your face amongst my audience — [1 word illeg. possibly Tom?] at the L & P looks like old [1 word illeg. possibly Lewis?] –

Yours Sincerely | John Dixon [signature]


John Dixon is listed in the Proceedings of the Geological Society as John Dixon, Esq., Assoc. Inst. C.E., The Choubra, Surbiton.

A Chartered Engineer, named John Dixon, was instrumental in bringing Cleopatra’s Needle fromEgypttoLondon. It is more than likely  that he was related to Wayman Dixon, a British Engineer, who also excavated Cleopatra’s needle in 1877.

Wayman Dixon was a supporter of the Society and Museum and was well known to John Hancock.

To read the story of the transport of Cleopatra’s Needle from Eygpt click here 



1. Joseph Wright was Keeper of the Natural History Society of Northumbria’s Museum from 1853-1904.


2. 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.

3. Stokefield House, Thornbury, South Gloucestershire the home of Admiral Henry Craven St John.

4. William Edwin Brooks was a Civil Engineer and ornithologist, an avid collector of bird skins whose collection is in the British Museum, London. He corresponded with Hancock and there is a small collection of 12 letters in the Society’s archive from Brooks to Hancock (NEWHM:2002.H1047).

5. The White-tailed Sea Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla, Europe’s largest eagle.

6. Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus.

7. White’s Thrush Zoothera dauma. The Turdus aureus of
M. Hollandre, the equivalent of Turdus Whitii of William Yarrell’s A  History of British Birds, 1843.

8. The Japanese wood pigeon Columba janthina.

9. Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromando

10. The Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus (Temminck, 1825) is a large swift found in southern  asia.

11. The Solitary Snipe Scolopax (Gallinago) solitaria is illustrated in Fauna Japonica.

12. Painted Snipe Rhynchea Bengalensis now known as the Greater Painted-Snipe Rostratula benghalensis. It is a species of wader found in South East Asia.

13. The Whimbrel “Numenius phoeopus Lin.” of Hancock is now Numenius phaeopus, a small curlew like wader. Whimbrels are passage migrants to Britain only breeding in the far north of Scotland.

14. Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata

15. Green Pheasant Phasianus  versicolor