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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Smith, Elder & Co.   30 March [1846]

Down Bromley Kent

Monday | March 30th.

Dear Sir

I am much obliged for your note & very clear Agreements, one of which I return signed. I am sorry, (though I hardly expected it) that you can not aid me in my Third Part, which I must publish, as well as I can, by commission with you.—1

It is provoking that the rules of the trade will not permit you to sell the Geolog. Parts at reduced prices,2 for of course putting a new title page, as for a new Edition, would do only for such gentlemen as Mr. Colburn & Co.—3 Whatever it costs my third Part shall be sold at not more s 10. d 6.— I must economise in every possible way, for many engravings are wanted for it—4

Allow me once again to thank you for the uniformly kind attention which I have on every occasion received from you & believe me dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | C. Darwin


This refers to South America, which is the third part of the geology of the Beagle voyage. The publication of Zoology had exhausted the government grant of £1000 (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter to A. Y. Spearman, 9 October 1843, n. 1), causing CD and the publisher to subsidise the later work (see South America, p. iii).
Under an agreement signed in 1829, publishers and booksellers were obliged to maintain a uniform retail price for each title. See J. J. Barnes 1964, p. 1.
For CD’s experience with Henry Colburn see letter to John Murray, 12 April [1845]. Despite CD’s reference to this ‘ungentlemanly’ practice, Smith, Elder & Co. went even further than Colburn in 1851, when unsold copies of Coral reefs, Volcanic islands, and South America were then bound as a single volume and reissued with a new title-page at the greatly reduced price of 10s. 6d. (see Freeman 1977, p. 58).
CD’s Account Book (Down House MS) records a number of payments for illustrations for South America, including those of 15 December 1845 and 5 July, 19 August, and 4 and 18 September 1846, totalling £47 13s. In addition, on 10 August 1847 CD paid a lump sum to Smith, Elder & Co. of £61 8s.; on 27 February 1848 he received £5 8s. 4d. from the same firm.


Discusses publication of his book [South America].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Smith, Elder & Co
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 967,” accessed on 25 May 2018,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 3