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Letter NEWHM:1996.H67.1286

John Hancock to James E Harting (15 February 1877)

Hancock refers to his note on the Passenger Pigeon in the Society’s Transactions. He thanks Harting for the review of his recently published “Catalogue of the Birds of Northumberland and Durham” in the ‘Field’ magazine but points out a few errors. He wishes him well in his new undertaking as Editor of the Zoologist.




Newcastle on Tyne

15th Feby. 1877.

My Dear Sir,

Our Transactions will be issued in a few days in which you will find my notice of the occurrence of the Passenger Pigeon, which was killed at Mulgrave in Cleveland last October, and I will see that a copy of the part is sent to you without delay.  Thanks for the offer of a copy of your review of my catalogue [1 word illeg.]

I have a cutting [p.2] from “The Field” with it in your review of my catalogue of the birds of Northumberland and Durham — On the whole I like it much very well, but you must allow me to correct an error or two you have fallen to made,

X [Hancock deletes the following paragraph and insets the paragraph on p.3 instead] the first is, you say I am somewhat  “sceptical” with regard to the young of the Cuckoo foster parents ejecting the young from of the foster parents from the nest. I think any one reading carefully what I have said, must come to a very different conclusion – I quote here

[p.3] X the first is you think me sceptical with regard to the part of the young Cuckoo ejecting the young of the foster parent out of the nest — you must, haveread me wrong for I am quite convinced of the fact — I must ask you to read refer to what I say in the Catalogue again –

The second error is you state that the my figure of the Gr[ea]t Auk is from the specimen in the Newcastle Museum, now, it is from my own specimen which is a female in adult summer plumage, whilst the Newcastle Museum individual specimen which is a young bird changing into winter plumage — X

Wishing you every success in your new undertaking.

I may mention that I am have become a subscriber to the new series of the Zoologist and I feel sure it will be well handled –





James Edmund Harting (c1841-1928) worked as a solicitor in London from 1868-1878 eventually leaving his profession to follow a career in natural history. He was a recognised ornithologist and considered to be a great expert on British birds. Hancock writes to him just as he is beginning his new career as the Editor of the Zoologist, a monthly natural history magazine, which he fronted from 1877 until 1896.


1. Hancock, John (1874) ‘A Catalogue of the Birds of Northumberland and Durham.’ Transactions of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne. Vol. 6.

Head of John Hancock’s Great Auk Specimen

2. Hancock’s Great Auk