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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Murray   29 November [1877]1

50, Albemarle St. | W.

Novr 29

My Dear Sir

The understanding between us as to the publication of your works, is as you rightly state that I pay you at the rate of two thirds of the profits of every Edition.2

As however you desired to be paid before the Editions are sold off, it is to a certain extent a matter of Estimate to calculate the exact amount of profit

It may thus have happened that where all the copies of an Edn. were sold my share may have a little exceeded the exact amount of 13d.—

To enable you however better to judge of this I send you the accounts in detail of the cost & produce of

The Forms of Flowers—

The Descent of Man—

upon wch my estimates of payment for those two books were founded.

By comparing the two you will perceive how it comes about that the Authors profits on each are nearly identical in amount. If in future you wd consent to receive annual statements of the sale of your books the payments wd be made to you in proportion to the rate of sale & every copy wd be accounted for when all were sold. This is my usual practice with Authors & admits of no uncertainty—

I will beg your attention to the account of Insectivorous Plants—as an example of the opposite side of the question— In this case having paid you in advance & according to estimate £560" I am a gainer down to the present time of not quite £100"—!3

I hope you do not regret ceding to me 12 the Profits of “Orchids” considering how despondent you were at the outset of the Success of that work—wch indeed took eleven years to run off, but if you are I beg to say that in the next Edition I am willing to place it on the footing of your other works & as soon as the sale shall have paid the outlay will give you 23ds profits4

I remain My Dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | John Murray

Chas Darwin Esqr


Estimated A/c Supposing all sold
De Descent of Man Cr
1877 1877
June To To Printing 1000 No 31 17 June By 1000 copies
" 30 Reams Paper 39 Sold Say
" Binding 1000 copies 29 3 4 684 Trade 25 6/ 197 2
as 24
" Advertising say 25 316 do " " 6/55 97 10 8
" Comn alld agents" 6 1000
" Balance Profit 163 12 4
294 12 8 294 12 8
Nov By Author’s 23 109 1 6
548 on Hand Nov. 29th 1877
Estimated a/c Supposing all Sold
De Different Forms of Flowers Cr
1877 1877
June To Printing 1250 No. and 148 12 June By 1000 copies
Stereo plates for
Sep America6 Sep 250 "
" 28 12 Rms Paper 54 17 3 1250
" Making Index 6 5 Stats Hall7
" Cooper Engraving8 11 1 24 Allowd Author
" Electros 2 2 6 say 38 Reviews
" Binding 1250 copies 33 17 1 1183 Sold
" Advertising 25 600 Trade 25 as 24 7/ 201 12
" Comn alld agents &c 7 583 do " " 7/6 210
" Balance Profit 154 14 2 1183
By Appleton & Co 31 12
for Stereo plates
for America
443 4 443 4
Nov By Author’s 23 103 2 9
54 on Hand


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to John Murray, 28 November 1877.
See letter to John Murray, 28 November 1877 and n. 8. Orchids was first published in 1862, with a second edition in 1877.
Trade purchasers received one free copy in every twenty-five, as was the general practice (Plant 1965, p. 405), and were charged 6s. or 6s. 5d.
Murray provided stereotype plates of Forms of flowers to D. Appleton & Co. for publication in the US (see letter from R. F. Cooke, 29 June 1877).
Four copies of any new work published in the United Kingdom had to be delivered to the Stationers’ Company for distribution on demand to the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the University Library in Cambridge, the Faculty of Advocates at Edinburgh, and the library of Trinity College, Dublin. A copy was also to be delivered to the British Museum in London. See Seville 1999, pp. 233, 262.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Forms of flowers: The different forms of flowers on plants of the same species. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1877.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.

Plant, Marjorie. 1965. The English book trade. An economic history of the making and sale of books. 2d edition. London: George Allen & Unwin.

Seville, Catherine. 1999. Literary copyright reform in early Victorian England: the framing of the 1842 Copyright Act. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Answers CD’s query about payment made to him [for Descent and Forms of flowers] and explains the basis on which it was made. Because of CD’s wish to be paid before editions are sold off, profits must be estimated. If he were willing to accept annual statements of sales, payments based on them, and final accounting when all were sold, there would be no uncertainty. This is JM’s usual practice.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Murray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Albemarle St, 50
Source of text
DAR 171: 497, DAR 210.11: 12
Physical description
ALS 4pp encl 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11259,” accessed on 25 July 2024,