Sign in

Letter NEWHM:1996.H67.708

John Hancock to Francis Henry Salvin (7 February 1878)

Hastily scribbled on a collection of scrap paper, Hancock composes a reply to Salvin’s letter of 15 January 1878 [Letter 707]. He answers Salvin’s questions on the provenance of a Peregrine Falcon, the autobiography of Thomas Bewick and some specimens he had previously alluded to. Hancock discusses some interesting skins from New Zealand he is working on then moves on to his plans for the building of the Society’s new museum in Newcastle.




Copy –

7th. Feby 1878.


Dear Salvin,

Your letter has come at last, and I can assure you that I was very glad to have it, and as I know so well from experience how difficult it is to keep a correspondence regular [ly crossed out] I readily “forgive” as I hope for forgiveness –

The Peregrine you allude to had the shaped bell on it you have sketched, and it was in the possession of a Mr Allison at Monk Wearmouth, but what came of it I have no recollection.

As regards my list wants in birds, the Magpie now I have what is required — but the Jay I require a male –.  The Raven I have skins, which I must be satisfied [p.2] with — These 3 species certainly don’t differ in plumage, but it is quite necessary in a complete collection of British birds to have the sexes.

The Memoir you speak of is certainly of Thos. Bewick not the Son but the few fish which are introduced in the Memoir were drawn & engraved by Robert the Son.

I read the article titled “The Laplanders” and I think it very good.  I have Consett’s tour through Sweden, Swedish-Lapland, Finland & Denmark –

We shall be very glad to see you in the Summer as you propose, we will have a vast to talk about you must take up your quarters at St. Mary’s Terrace mind –.  The Falcon & Raven is yours undoubtedly and the [p.3] Society has alway’s [sic] been ready to send it off whenever you desired it –

Now for an account of myself and what we are likely to be about in a Natural History way in Newcastle this year –.  I have been for the last 8 months working at the curious New Zealand birds which I have had sent over preserved in spirits with their bodies in.

They will form fine Types things I am saving their curious skeletons as well as the outer forms with the feathers on — I never expected to have got such an importation from New Zealand — I have got Ap[t]eryxs – Owl like Parrots, Penguins, Wattle [?] Hui[a]s   &c &c &c &c[.]  You must see them to [one word deleted] understand them –

[p.4] Verso an advert for G.G Taylor & Co, Family Grocers

[p.5] Now for our great The next affair I have to speak of is a projected Museum Building for the Museum here, we have got the site purchased, which is just opposite our House about  – 2½ Acres — The building will occupy 1 acre — the plan is complete and in a few days we shall have Estimates –

I think it will cost something like £30,000 — we expect a few large Subscriptions but we shall require small ones also — I hope if we get the money that our building will be a pattern for other  Provincial Museums. –

The ground plan is my own whether approved of or not

[p.6] [A letter from H Barnes to John Hancock, see separate transcript below.]

[p.7] in all probability should we succeed in getting a the building that my Collection will go into it.  If it goes on it will keep us very busy for sometime –

You will scarcely know Newcastle now it has increased so much since you were here –  nearly All Jesmond has is built upon now ie that is between our House & Sir W. Armstrong’s — and to the west the the town reaches for miles –





1.  Bewick, Thomas (1862) A Memoir of Thomas Bewick written by himself.

An autobiography of Thomas Bewick (1753-1828) published posthumously by his daughter Jane Bewick, it contained a collection of sixteen wood engravings of fish by his son Robert Bewick.

2.  ‘The Laplanders’ an article in the Victorian shooting magazine ‘Land & Water’ (1866 – 1914).

‘Consett’s Tour’ – Consett, Mathew (1789) A tour through Sweden, Swedish-Lapland, Finland and Denmark.

3. Apteryx
  is the species name of the New Zealand Kiwi3.  “New Zealand Birds”. The Kakapo, Strigops habroptila also called Owl Parrot, is a species of large, flightless nocturnal parrot endemic to New Zealand. Two skins were given to the Society in 1877 by William Nesham.

4. The Huia Heteralocha acutirostris was the largest species of New Zealand wattlebird native to the North Island of New Zealand. It is now extinct.

5.  Hancock’s plans for the building of a New Museum of Natural History, Barras Bridge (later renamed The Hancock Museum).

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————– Transcription of page 6. A letter from H Barnes to John Hancock.

4 Lombard St

Newcastle on Tyne

8 Feb 1878.

Dear Sir,

The Gentleman, you so kindly offered to guide thro’ the Museum, will, I believe, not come to Newcastle for the present.

I remain, | Dear Sir | Yours truly  | H Barnes [signature]

J. Hanock Esq

4 St Mary’s Terrace