Item 12 - Letter from J E Gray of the British Museum to Brian Houghton Hodgson

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Letter from J E Gray of the British Museum to Brian Houghton Hodgson


  • 25 Dec 1844 (Creation)

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To B.H. Hodgson
From J.E. Gray

25th Dec 1844
British Museum

My Dear Sir

This will be delivered to your by Mr. Gerard who will pack the specimens and give you an account of them. I have [desired?] him to bring the Thibet items with him by rail and to learn from Mr Masters the best ways of sending of the others.
As soon as I have received the specimens and been able to sort them into kinds I will as once proceed to make the short descriptions you desire of the hitherto undescribed specimens which are marked as not having yet been characterized in the list of your birds which you have promised to send to me and send their descriptions for mention in Taylors Annals of Natural History. It would be more satisfactory if you transmitted with the list the descriptions you have already made on these species that my additions may only be the filling up of any [?] that may be necessary as I consider everything that van be [?] from your own hands so very much more valuable thats what is to be desired from the study of the dry skins and bones and at the same time more satisfactory. As soon as the collection is sorted out and the duplicates distributed into sets for the different Museums according to your letters we will set to work to form the catalogue of them and of the drawings but it would greatly facilitate this affair if you will give me a complete list of your various Papers and the Books in which they have appeared that I may search for them in the India House and other libraries for the local magazines of India very rarely find their way to this country and are even more rare in perfect sets. Hence the great difficulty we experience in knowing when the Indian species are described. This catalogue may be made in 3 or 4 months so as to appear in the Spring. I consider this catalogue of the greatest use as making known where your numerous and very interesting descriptions are to be found for if the works which contains them are rare in London their existence are quite unknown on the Continent and if the Specimens were sent without being accompanied by such work the names would almost all be considered as mere {Mss.?] one and therefore little or not at all recorded. You have more than once accused me of being anxious to grasp at your Collections, in this you quite misunderstand me, my anxiety to have the specimens is more on your own account than any mere wish to increase the Museum Collection which has been increasing at the rate of 20,000 specimens a year for the last 2 or 3 years and will have added more than 27,000 specimens this year. But by your sending a series of specimens to the British Museum there can be no [cavilling?] in time to come your discoveries and the type of your species and you will have them to refer to any time that your Nepal fauna may appear, at the same time it must be owned and nobody can be more willing to allow it than I am that your collection is a most magnificent contribution to the National collections and Science in general. I will use my utmost endeavour to induce some artist to undertake the publication of a selection of your drawings [figuring?] especially the more interesting of the numerous new species which you have discovered for I don't think that it is possible that I could ever find any one to Engrave or purchasers to support the entire series. I say artist for large publishers will never undertake such publications and I believe it is only a person who will devote himself to the work and to getting it into circulation as Mr. Gould does that could make a work of the hands pay its expenses. Should such an artist be found I will give him any assistance in my [?] power as I did to Mr. Howard when he was engaged upon it. If you were going to remain here I should have recommended you to have at once set to work to collect together [reports?] in a systematic form all the very interesting and strikingly novel [research?] and observations with which the backs of your Drawings and Notes Books are filled and to proceed to print them for I believe they would form a work which many publishers would be glad to undertake and which would be a most valuable contribution to [natural?] knowledge, but as your are going back to nearly the same neighbourhood I think it better the work should be delayed for a few years that you may add to it any fresh observations which you may be enabled to make and read it over when it is collected together into an acceptable form to take from it any [repetitions] and add to it the facts that must recur to your memory on such a perusal. When you have your materials together I will peruse and give you any friendly assistance that may occur to a [closet?] and systematic naturalise like myself but I am convinced/concerned from what I have seen of the notes that very little assistance will be wanted from me as I should not recommend you to over[burden?[ the work with dry systematic descriptions taken from the dry skins or measurements which are comparatively of so much less importance than the notes on the structure and habits of an animal or Birds made on the spot by an enlightened and accurate observer like yourself but what ever friendly assistance my numerous and laborious occupations here will allow me to give to the work I shall be most happy to afford though at the same I must decline to take on myself any responsible part in either the publication of the plates of letter press descriptions
Believe me my Dear Sir
Yours Truly
J. E. Gray

To B.H, Hodgson Esq.

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