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To James Madison from Charles Willson Peale, 1 April 1806

From Charles Willson Peale

Museum April 1st. 1806

Dear Sir

The other two Polygraphs for Tripoli I have this Day put on board the Schooner Caroline commanded by Captn. Fisher, the Bill of Lading enclosed.1 The Captn. tels me that he intends to sail on tomorrow. I hope that which went by he way of appoquinomy has arrived in good condition.

It was by accident I heard of the present conveyance, for I was led to believe that I could not find a passage by water in less than 3 weeks, or I would have perfered it as the President intimated his desire to have it so.

The price of the three Polygra[p]hs mounted with Silver is  370$
the walnut Cases lined with cloath & 2 packing Cases—   30

Please to inform the President that I am about a drawing of the Antilope, which I have mounted, that Captn. Lewis sent, with the intention of sending it to him inclosed in a letter, within 2 or 3 days.2 I wish to look over some few authors, to know if it has been discribed—Seba gives the horns of it in one of his plates, without discription,3 he only calls it the American Antilope. The Marmot has not been completely torpid tho’ nearly so; it has, now & then, eaten a little. The Lizard which the President send to the Philosophical society is dead, and I have preserved it, expecting to put it into the Museum. I am with much respect your friend


Letterbook copy (PPAmP: Charles Willson Peale Letter Book, 1806).

1For the polygraphs, see Peale to JM, 19 Mar. 1806. The Caroline, Fisher, arrived at Alexandria, Virginia, about 17 Apr. 1806 (New-York Gazette & General Advertiser, 22 Apr. 1806). The bill of lading has not been found.

2For the items sent to Jefferson by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, see PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (11 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends 10:205 n. 2. On 5 Apr. 1806 Peale wrote Jefferson enclosing his drawing, describing the antelope in detail, and stating that the condition of the skins was so poor that it was only with difficulty that he could mount one (Miller, Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale, 2:950–51).

3Peale referred to Albertus Seba’s Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio, et iconibus artificiosissimis expressio, per universam physices historiam. … (4 vols.; Amsterdam, 1734–65), generally known as Seba’s Thesaurus. Wealthy Dutch pharmaceutical merchant Albertus Seba (1665–1736) built two extensive collections of natural curiosities from around the world in his museum. He sold his first collection to the Russian court ca. 1710 and promptly began building a second, which he arranged to have preserved in a published work. He hired artists to paint the items in his collection and engravers to reproduce the resulting illustrations. The third and fourth volumes of this work were not published until long after his death (John L. Heller, “Linneaus on Sumptuous Books,” Taxon 25 [1976]: 44–45).

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