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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Carter Blake   13 January 1862

1 Judd Street. | Brunswick Square | W.C.

13th January 1862.

Dear Sir.

I was very much gratified by the reception of your note of the 1st June last, in relation to my article on Macrauchenia in Bolivia.1 I am thereby encouraged to address you on a different subject.

Having paid for some years careful attention to the distribution of recent and fossil Mammalia in South America, I am very anxious to obtain some information which I apprehend you alone can give me, as the materials which my friend Professor Owen2 possesses have been already placed at my disposal.

I would ask firstly, where is any scientific anatomical description of the bones discovered at Manta, Punta St Elena, Papallacta, & Suacha to be found? Humboldt identifies some of these remains as undoubtedly Cetacean.3 Has this been verified, and if so, where?

Secondly, whether during your many investigations, you are aware of any other species of fossil New World monkeys than Pliopithecus antiquus.

Cebus macrognathus.

Callithrix primævus, &

Jacchus grandis.

and if any other species exist, in what work or periodical I may obtain information respecting them?4

I may add, that I am the author of the paper on “Distribution of Mastodon in South America” (Geologist. Novr 1861)5 and that I have prepared a list of the recent and fossil Mammalia of Chile & Peru, which will appear in the forthcoming 2nd Edition of my friend Mr Bollaert’s work on South America.6

I have the honour to remain, | Dear Sir, | Yours very respectfully | Charles Carter Blake

Charles Darwin. Esqre. M.A. F.R.S. | &c &c &c


CD’s letter has not been found. In his article (Blake 1861a), Blake, who was a protégé of Richard Owen, disputed Thomas Henry Huxley’s identification of a new species of fossil Macrauchenia (T. H. Huxley 1861a), both on a point of fact, and in respect of Huxley’s ‘impugning the philosophical laws of “correlation of structure” as defined by Cuvier and Owen’ (Blake 1861a, p. 442). Blake claimed that the remains would probably be found to be those of M. patachonica, the species discovered by CD at Port St Julian and subsequently described by Owen (see Zoology 1: 35–56; see also Blake 1861b, p. 472, Blake 1862a, p. 325, and Rachootin 1985).
Richard Owen.
The reference to Alexander von Humboldt has not been traced; Blake’s immediate source was probably a book by his friend William Bollaert, which contained an unreferenced account of Humboldt’s opinion of these remains (Bollaert 1860, p. 80; see n. 6, below). See also Blake 1862a, pp. 323–4.
Blake published an article entitled ‘Fossil monkeys’ in the Geologist for March 1862 in which he attacked the notion that there were any fossil Quadrumana that could be considered ancestors of the human species ‘under any of the “derivative” theories propounded by Darwin or Lamarck’ (Blake 1862b, pp. 81, 84). His list of fossil monkeys included four species of New World monkey—those listed in his letter, except that Pliopithecus antiquus (an Old World fossil) was replaced by Protopithecus Brasiliensis. These four species were discovered by the Danish naturalist Peter Wilhelm Lund (Lund 1839–40, 11: 230, 12: 208, 13: 313). CD referred to the discovery of fossil monkey remains in South America in Origin, p. 303.
Blake 1861b.
William Bollaert published his archaeological and ethnological studies of South America in 1860 (Bollaert 1860); no second edition was published (NSTC). Blake appended a list of the fossil Mammalia of South America to his paper, ‘Past life in South America’, which appeared in the Geologist for September 1862 (Blake 1862a, pp. 329–30).


Thanks for note on his Macrauchenia paper [Ann. & Mag. Nat. Hist. 3d ser. 7 (1861): 441–3].

Asks for references to descriptions of certain bones found in South America.

Lists four fossil New World monkeys; is CD aware of any others?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Carter Blake
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Judd St, 1
Source of text
DAR 160.2: 198
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3384,” accessed on 27 June 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10