Letter from Edward Burnett Tylor to Henry Balfour, 21 November 1901

Letter from Edward Burnett Tylor to Henry Balfour, 21 November 1901
Accession number: 
PRM Accession Records, Donations 3, fol.49r (additions, pp.1–2)
Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

Letter from Professor Edward Burnett Tylor to Henry Balfour of the Pitt Rivers Museum, dated 21 November 1901.

Transcript of letter (2 pages): ‘My dear Balfour/ This letter will serve as the formal record of my gift of the Totem-Post from Masset to the Pitt-Rivers Museum. As I learn that there// was no written presentation of the two House Posts from the same village, deposited by me some years ago, I now transfer them permanently to the Collection under your charge./ [Illegible word] by/ Edward B[.] Tylor’. (Transcription by Philip Grover.)


Research notes: It has been established that this letter of donation to the Curator of the Pitt Rivers Museum was written the day before Professor E. B. Tylor delivered a lecture on the subject of ‘Totems and Totemism’, which one may not unreasonably surmise, therefore, also served as the formal presentation, or public unveiling, of the Haida totem pole [1901.39.1]: ‘On Friday afternoon [22 November 1901] there was a large gathering at the [University] Museum to hear Dr. Tylor’s lecture on “Totems and Totemism”. Those who came had every reason to congratulate themselves on having heard the very clear and conclusive views which Dr. Tylor expressed on a subject with which the general public is acquainted only in the vaguest way’: ‘Totems’, The Oxford Magazine, 20 (27 November 1901), pp.108–109. (It is evident from this anonymous report of his lecture that Tylor reprised some of what he had already published on the subject: Edward B. Tylor, ‘Remarks on Totemism, with Especial Reference to Some Modern Theories Respecting It’, The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 28 (1899), pp.138–148.) The same account for the first time also makes clear that Star House Pole had by November 1901 been raised and installed in the Pitt Rivers Museum, several months before Tylor published his scholarly descriptive account of it the following year: E. B. Tylor, ‘Note on the Haida Totem-Post Lately Erected in the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford’, Man: A Monthly Record of Anthropological Science, 2 (1902), pp.1–3.