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Letter 3561

Bronn, H. G. to Darwin, C. R.

19 May 1862

    Summary Add

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    Thanks for revisions in 2d ed. of Origin. Suggests correction regarding species numbers in the Tertiary.

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    Comments on pages of Orchids and problems of German translation.

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    Believes CD's theory not yet proven, but that it will finally lead to truth.

Transcription

Heidelberg

le 19 Mai 1862

Monsieur!

J'ai eu l'honneur de recevoir les paquets, que Vous avez bien voulu m'addresser soit directement soit par l'intermédiaire de Mr Schweizerbart;—et je vous remercie sincèrement non seulement pour les additions à la dernière édition anglaise de vôtre Origin of Species, mais particulièrement encore pour la manière, dont vous m'avez su faciliter de retrouver les pages et les lignes, où un changement ou une addition doit avoir lieu dans la nouvelle édition allemande, dont l'impression va commencer dans ces jours mêmes. Il faut cependant me permettre une observation sur un passage dans la dernière édition Anglaise, qui ne s'est pas trouvé dans la précédente.

Pag. 142: Geology shows us, at least within the whole imm<ense> tertiary period, that the number of species of shells and probably, of mammals, has not greatly or at all increased.

N'ÿ a-t-il pas là quelque faute d'impression? L<es> <    > n'existent au commencement de la période tertiaire <    > nombre et de peu d'ordres seulement; ils deviennent toujo<urs> plus nombreux, de sorte que dans l'étage Miocène ils paraissent être même plus variés et plus abondants, qu'aujourdhui. Au moins le nombre d'espèces trouvées ensemble dans une même couche d'une même localité (à Mayance, Sansan etc) est quelquefois plus grand, que celui qu'on m'en trouveroit à présent dans toute l'Europe. Il n'ÿ a pas de doute, que le nombre des Mammifères, dont on ne connoît qu'une douzaine d'espèces à peu près dans les terrains pré-tertiaires, n'ait augmenté plus considérablement peutêtre que celui d'aucune autre classe justement dans la période tertiaire. Je vous prie donc, Monsieur, de bien vouloir me faire savoir comment il faut entendre ce passage?

Les feuilles de Vôtre livre sur les Orchidées m'ont fait reconnoître, qu'il sera d'une grande importance pour la science, qu'il va enrichir de nouvaux faits relativement à une famille de plantes qui sont des plus interèssantes de toutes, et dont il corrigera la théorie. Si peût-être pas tous les lecteurs de ``l'Origin'' seroient assez botanistes, pour s'ÿ intéresser il ÿ aura sans doute un grand nombre de botanistes qui, ne possedent pas l'Origin, mais achèteront les Orchidées. C'est ce que j'ai écrit à Mr. Schweizerbart en lui communiquant les épreuves; cependant je l'ai prié également d'en consulter encore un botaniste même, comme p.e. Mr. v. Mohl. Ensuite il aura à faire son compte rélativement à ses frais; et je crois qu'il sera à même à Vous communiquer sa decision en 18--24 jours auplus!—car on vient de me prévenir qu'il est parti pour la foire de Leipsic, voÿage que` chaque libraire éditeur doit faire tous les ans et qui conge 2--3 semaines.

Je Vous ai dit, que je n'adhère pas à Vôtre théorie, parce-que, malgré tous les avantage qu'elle auroit pour la science, elle est encore en opposition avec des faits fondamentaux de la science (le premier developpement d'un animal sortant de matière inorganique), mais que néanmoins je suis convaincu, qu'elle nous conduira enfin sur la route de la verité. Peût-être, si je trouve assez de temps, j'ajouterai à la traduction quelques observations intéressantes sur la variabilité des espèces relativement à des charactères, qu'on a cru être les plus constants.

Veuillez aggréer, Monsieur, l'expression de la considération toute particulière, avec laquelle j'ai, l'honneur d'être, Monsieur | Vôtre | très devoué | H. G. Bronn

Translation

Heidelberg

19 May 1862

Sir,

I have had the honour of receiving the packets that you were kind enough to send me either directly or through Mr Schweizerbart;—and I thank you sincerely not only for the additions to the latest English edition of your Origin of Species, but even more especially for the manner in which you made it easy to find the pages and the lines where a change or an addition is to be made in the new German edition, which will be going to press any day now. I must however comment on a passage in the latest English edition that is not in the previous one.

Pag. 142: Geology shows us, at least within the whole imm<ense> tertiary period, that the number of species of shells and probably, of mammals, has not greatly or at all increased.

Is there not some printing error there? The <    > do not exist at the beginning of the tertiary period <    > number and only a few orders; they become more numerous such that in the miocene stratum they appear to be even more varied and more abundant than today. At least the number of species found together in the same bed at the same locality (at Mayance, Sansan etc) is sometimes greater than that to be found nowadays in the whole of Europe. There is no doubt that the number of mammals, of which only about a dozen species are known in the pre-tertiary beds, has increased considerably perhaps more than any other class precisely in the tertiary period. I beg you therefore, my dear Sir, to let me know how this passage should be understood?

The pages of your book on the Orchids made me realize that it will be of great importance for science and that it will provide new facts relating to a family of plants of the greatest interest, the interpretation of which it will revise. Though perhaps not all readers of the ``Origin'' would be sufficiently botanically minded to be interested in it, there will certainly be a great number of botanists who do not possess a copy of the Origin but who will buy the Orchids. This is what I wrote to Mr. Schweizerbart when I sent him the proofs; however I have asked him also to consult a genuine botanist, such as, for example, Mr. v. Mohl. Afterwards he will have to make an account of his expenses; and I think that he will himself inform you of his decision within no more than 18--24 days—since I have just been informed that he has left for the Leipzig fair, a journey that every publisher must make every year and which lasts 2 to 3 weeks.

I have told you that I do not support your theory because, in spite of all the advantages it would have for science, it is still in opposition to some fundamental facts of science (the first development of an animal from inorganic matter), but nevertheless I am convinced that in the long run it will lead us on the path of truth. It is possible that, if I have enough time, I will add to the translation some interesting observations on the variability of species with respect to some characters that are believed to be the most constant.

Please accept, Sir, the expression of my highest esteem, with which I have the honour, Sir, of being your obedient servant | H. G. Bronn

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 3561.f1
    For a translation of this letter, see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix I. Although Bronn had previously corresponded with CD in German, he began writing in French after learning that CD found it more difficult to read German than French (see letter to H. G. Bronn, 11 March [1862]).
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    f2 3561.f2
    See letter to H. G. Bronn, 25 April [1862]. Christian Friedrich Schweizerbart was the head of E. Schweizerbart'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, the publishing firm that published the German translation of Origin, and was preparing to publish a translation of Orchids.
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    f3 3561.f3
    Bronn was preparing a second German edition of Origin (Bronn trans. 1863) from the third English edition. The manuscript alterations and corrections sent by CD with his letter of 25 April [1862] have not been found. However, those changes incorporated in the second German edition of Origin that do not occur in the third English edition are given in Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix VIII. Bronn trans. 1863 was initially published in three parts, whose publication was announced on 6 October, 17 November, and 19 December 1862, respectively (Börsenblatt für den Deutschen Buchhandel 29 (1862): 2083, 2447, and 2735).
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    f4 3561.f4
    Mayence is the French name for the German city of Mainz. Bronn refers to the rich Miocene fauna found at both Eppelsheim, a village south of Mainz, and at Sansan, a village near Auch in the south of France (see Bronn 1858, p. 473).
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    f5 3561.f5
    No reply from CD to this query has been found, and in Bronn trans. 1863, p. 152, the sentence is translated without modification. However, Bronn added a footnote that reads: `Bekanntlich hat sich die Säugthier-Welt fast ganz erst im Laufe der Tertiär-Zeit entwickelt.' [As is commonly known, mammals developed almost exclusively during the Tertiary period.] CD annotated the sentence in his copy of the third edition of Origin, and in the fourth edition published in 1866, he amended it to read: `But geology shows us, that from an early part of the long tertiary period the number of species of shells, and that from the middle part of this same period the number of mammals, has not greatly or at all increased' (Origin 4th ed., p. 151). CD's copies of his own books are in the Rare Books Room--CUL.
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    f6 3561.f6
    CD sent Bronn the first half of the proof-sheets of Orchids at the end of April (see letter to H. G. Bronn, 25 April [1862]); Bronn's name also appears on CD's list of presentation copies for this work (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix IV).
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    f7 3561.f7
    See letter to H. G. Bronn, 25 April [1862]. Hugo von Mohl, professor of botany at Tübingen, was a specialist on plant anatomy.
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    f8 3561.f8
    See letter from E. Schweizerbart'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 7 June 1862. Leipzig was a major centre for the book trade in the nineteenth century; the book fair formed part of the annual Easter fair (Börsenblatt für den Deutschen Buchhandel 29 (1862): 1172--3, and EB).
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    f9 3561.f9
    See also letter from H. G. Bronn, [before 11 March 1862]. For a discussion of Bronn's attitude towards CD's theory, see Junker 1991.
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    f10 3561.f10
    Bronn had appended a chapter commenting on Origin to his translation of the first edition (see Correspondence vol. 8). He added no further remarks to the second German edition, stating that, as the latest English edition (Origin 3d ed.) contained several responses to his original comments, he felt obliged to leave his chapter unchanged in the second German edition (Bronn trans. 1863, p. 525 n.).
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