Guide to the Correspondence of Albert S. Meek (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2019

Collection Summary

Meek, Albert Stewart
Correspondence of Albert S. Meek (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1894 - 1931
Collection Number
4 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

Letters 1894-1931 from Meek to Dr Ernsk Hartert, H.E. Karl Jordan and Lord Rothschild. Subjects include Meek's collecting activities particularly in Trobriand Islands, Woodlark Island, Bougainville, Dutch New Guinea, Goodenough Island, Rook Island and New Hanover. There are also references to the Goodfellow Expedition and death of G.C. Eichhorn.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Filmed at the British Museum (Natural History), London, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1990 (AJCP Reel: M2512). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

The name of the British Museum (Natural History) was changed to the Natural History Museum in 1992.

Existence and Location of Originals

Archives Department, British Museum (Natural History). Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD, England.

Collection reference: TM. For further information, see Natural History Museum Library and Archives (

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding-Aid Notes

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2019. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Bougainville; Dutch New Guinea; Eichhorn, G.C.; Goodenough Island, Papua; Goodfellow, James; Hartert, Ernsk, Dr; Jordan, H.E. Karl; Meek, Albert S.; Naturalists; New Hanover; Rook Island; Rothschild, Lionel W , 2nd Baron; Trobiand Islands; Woodlark Island


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 316, p.117.

Biographical / Historical

Albert Stewart Meek (1871-1943), the son of a trader in natural history specimens, was born in London. In 1890 he went to Queensland and spent some time at Coomooboolaroo, a cattle station near Duaringa. Its owner, George Barnard (d. 1894), had built a private museum to house his extensive collection of insects and birds' eggs. In 1894 Meek was engaged by Walter Rothschild to collect birds and insects for his museum at Tring. For nearly twenty years he led a series of collecting expeditions to British, German and Dutch New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. He was the author of A naturalist in Cannibal Land (1913). He continued to correspond with the Tring Museum in later years and helped to organise the expeditions led by Albert Eichhorn to New Guinea and New Britain in 1923-26. (Lionel) Walter Rothschild (1868-1937), 2nd Baron Rothschild (succeeded 1915), was born in London. He was mainly educated at home and was then a student at Bonn University and Magdalene College, Cambridge. He joined the family bank of N.M. Rothschild & Sons, but his main interests were scientific. He began collecting insects as a schoolboy and later widened his collecting to birds and animals. His collections were stored at his father's estate at Tring, Buckinghamshire, where a public museum was opened in 1892. He gave up his work in the City in 1908 and concentrated on his scientific activities. He was a trustee of the British Museum, a fellow of the Royal Society, and an honorary member of many important societies of entomology, ornithology and botany. He was a member of the House of Commons from 1898 to 1910.Ernst Johann Otto Hartert (1859-1933) was born at Hamburg and later lived in East Prussia. He began writing about his ornithological discoveries in 1880. Between 1885 and 1891 he went on collecting expeditions in West Africa, Sumatra, the Straits Settlements, India and the West Indies. He moved to England in 1891 and in the following year he was appointed by Lionel Rothschild as the director of the museum at Tring. He held the position until 1930. He wrote numerous papers for the museum's journal, Novitates Zoologicae and a monumental work, Die Vögel der paläarktischen Fauna (1903-22). He was president of the International Ornithological Congress in 1926. His last years were spent in Berlin. (Heinrich Ernst) Karl Jordan (1861-1959) was born at Almstedt, near Hanover, and attended the University of Gottinngen, where he studied zoology and botany. In 1893 he was engaged by Lionel Rothschild as the curator of his insect collections kept at the museum at Tring. He held the position until 1930 and then succeeded Ernst Hartert as director of the museum. He retired in 1939. Jordan was a prolific writer, producing hundreds of scientific papers. He founded the International Congress of Entomologists in 1910 and was its permanent secretary until 1948. He was president of the Entomological Society of London in 1929-30.Albert Frederic Eichhorn (d. 1930), who was the brother-in-law of Albert Meek, was born at Cooktown, Queensland. Between 1898 and 1913 he was a member of several of Meek's expeditions to New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, sometimes accompanied by his brother George Eichhorn. In 1918 they explored the Hydrographer Range in New Guinea, collecting for Walter Rothschild. Between 1923 and 1926 Eichhorn led expeditions to New Guinea, New Britain and the Bismarck Archipelago.

Item Descriptions

Series. Tring Museum Correspondence Box 83, 1894 - 1931

For a more detailed list see the available supplementary material.

Letters, 1894 - 1900 (File 1-87)

The letters refer to the purchase and sorting of the zoological collection of George Barnard (1894-96), Meek's first expedition to New Guinea, collecting in the Trobriand Islands and Woodlark Island, costs and expenditure, financial arrangements with Tring Museum, despatch of specimens, especially coleoptera (beetles) and lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), his relations with Papuans, hopes of exploring the interior of New Guinea, Meek's visit to England (1896), his return to New Guinea (1897-99), his assistants W.G. Meek, Henry Barnard, and George and Albert Eichhorn, relations with Kanaka collectors, engagement of carriers, collecting of birds at Goodenough Island, encounters with aggressive 'bushmen', fevers and illnesses, a sailing accident at Woodlark Island (1897), his travel movements, specimens of particular interest, collecting on Rossel Island (1898), stories of cannibalism on Rossel Island, Meek's relations with the governor William McGregor, his marriage to Emelie Eichhorn (1898) and births of children, and collecting in the Milne Bay region (1900).

Principal correspondents include: Ernst Hartert; Walter Rothschild; Karl Jordan and G.C. Eichhorn.

Letters, 1901 - 1908 (File Items 88-215)

The letters refer to Meek's first expedition to the Solomon Islands(1901), his plans for an expedition to the Aroa River in the interior of New Guinea, collecting of butterflies, insects, bird skins and other specimens, travel arrangements, the revision of his agreement with Walter Rothschild, the despatch of collections, the sale of the cutter Calliope (1902), costs, expenditure and financial arrangements, Meek's attitude to A.E. Pratt and other collectors, his relations with officials such as George Le Hunte, Anthony Musgrave (Port Moresby) and Charles Woodford (Solomon Islands), his relations with Albert and George Eichhorn, specimens of special interest, birds of paradise, ornithoptera (birdwing butterflies), the first Aroa River expedition (1903), the journey from the mountains to Port Moresby, Meek's return to the Solomon Islands (1903-4), the second Aroa River expedition (1904), the Bugi Mountains expedition (1905-6), the murder of a member of his party (April 1906), the death of W.G. Meek (1907), the expedition to the north-east coast of New Guinea (1907), receipt of equipment from Tring Museum, the question of a visit to Netherlands New Guinea, an expedition to the Solomon Islands and Bougainville (1907-8), Meek's impressions of Bougainville, and his reasons for not staying at San Cristoval.

Principal correspondents include: Wilfred Beaver; Burns, Philp & Co.; Ernst Hartert; Karl Jordan and E.C. Perry.

Letters, 1909 - 1914 (File Items 216-290)

The letters refer to Meek's life on the Atherton Tablelands, his interest in exploring Dutch New Guinea, future collecting plans, the recruitment of labour, his arrival in Dutch New Guinea (May 1910), negotiations with local officials, the failure of the expedition led by Walter Goodfellow, the transport of specimens from the camp in the Snow Mountains in canoes over hundreds of rapids, collecting of birds and insects, new birds of paradise, fevers and other illnesses, financial arrangements, the despatch of collections, a journey to Island River, collecting in central Dutch New Guinea, differences between the birds discovered and those in British New Guinea, the difficulty of reaching high altitudes, the deaths of boys from beri-beri, Meek's return to Australia (1911), his interest in the New Hebrides and the Banks Group, his visit to England (1912), his return to New Guinea (1912-13), the condition of his boat Shamrock, collecting on Goodenough Island, new discoveries including various species of butterflies, an expedition to German New Guinea (1913), collecting at the Admiralty Islands (Bismarck Archipelago), the publication of A naturalist among the cannibals (1913) and plans for future collecting. From 1911 onwards there are also copies of letters from Ernst Hartert and Karl Jordan at Tring, mostly acknowledging the receipt of consignments and referring to the agreements between Walter Rothschild and Meek and new discoveries made by Meek.

Principal correspondents include: Ernst Hartert; Karl Jordan and Walter Rothschild.

Letters, 1915 - 1931 (File Items 291-382)

The correspondence between Meek and Albert Hartert and Karl Jordan refers to the possibility of further collecting by Meek, the interest of Walter Rothschild in New Guinea, the New Hebrides and Santa Cruz, Meek's long periods in hospital (1916-17) and his subsequent health problems, his decision to give up collecting and his employment by Burns, Philp & Company (1919), his work inspecting plantations in the Solomon Islands and New Guinea, the termination of Meek's contract with Rothschild (1921), arrangements between Meek and Albert Eichhorn, Eichhorn's collecting expeditions to New Ireland, Bougainville, New Britain and the Bismarck Archipelago (1923-26), shipping difficulties, costs, the inferiority of his collections compared to those of Meek, the despatch of consignments to England, payments by the Tring Museum, requests for equipment, possible collecting by Eichhorn in the New Hebrides and the Solomon Islands, a stroke suffered by Eichhorn (1926), Meek's farm on the south coast of New South Wales, his meeting with Eichhorn (1929), the death of Eichhorn (1930), and the retirement of Hartert and his return to Germany. There are also several letters written by Eichhorn between 1925 and 1928 requesting ornithological publications relating to the New Guinea region, his plans for future collecting in New Britain, requests for equipment, his search for Delias (butterflies), the difficulties of collecting in mountainous areas, a proposed expedition to the New Guinea mainland, the protection of birds of paradise, and Eichhorn's condition following his stroke.

Principal correspondents include: Bank of North Queensland; Burns, Philp & Co.; Albert Eichhorn; Ernst Hartert; Karl Jordan; National Bank of Australasia; National Bank of Australia and Walter Rothschild.