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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Japetus Steenstrup   30 December [1849]

Down Farnborough Kent

Dec. 30

My dear Sir

I have delayed writing to you to give you my most cordial thanks for all your kindness, in the earnest hopes of hearing again from Prof. Forchhammer. He will have told you of the parcel never having arrived: I made all kinds of enquiries, & was assured at the Office that no parcel directed to me arrived by the Pomona in November: I yet hope that it may not, by mistake, have been sent off from Copenhagen; but no doubt Prof. Forchhammer will have made due enquiries. When I hear again, that it was really sent off, I will advertise in newspapers with large reward for its recovery.— I cannot in truth tell you how grieved I have been: your fossils would have been of the greatest interest to me, & of all the Cirripedes in the world, I most wish to dissect the Alepas squalicola, & I had written to Lovèn to beg for a specimen.1 But it is not on my account but on your account that I so deeply regret the loss of the parcel, if it prove really lost: I am assured by Mr Cuming, who receives hundreds of parcels of shells from all parts of world that he has never lost one! I will not fail to write to inform you should the parcel arrive.—

You are so kind as to offer me some northern recent species; namely some from Iceland &c, & an otion (I have a quite new & very singular genus like an Otion from a Delphinus) from the Delphinus globiceps,2 together with some remarks on their distribution; I cannot say too strongly how valuable these would be to me; & I would return them all to you. If, however, you enclose the sessile cirripedes, I shd. have to keep them some time, for owing to my weak health, & partly to the cirripedes requiring very long descriptions, I make very slow progress; though I work a little every day. But I do not know, how I can venture to ask you to send me anything more after the apparent loss of the former parcel, which I fear must have contained several unique specimens. Oh how I should have liked to have seen your Anat. cretæ3 & the Alepas. I have only just commenced on the systematic part of the sessile cirripedes, & I find it impossible to even guess what Linnæus meant by Lepas balanus & balanoides;4 in fact I cannot name by descriptions the common species of the British Coasts.— I find in all our Museums, even different genera of British cirripedes made into one species, & mere varieties made into distinct species: if, therefore, you cd. give me some of the commoner Northern species named, it wd be a great assistance to me.—

As far as industry goes, I will make my monograph as complete as I can; & I have large materials most generously placed at my disposal. Again let me thank you most sincerely for all the very great kindness you have shown me: I assure you I consider receiving even a letter from the Author of the volume on Alternate Generations a pleasure & honour.—5

Believe me, dear Sir, Yours very faithfully & obliged. C. Darwin.—

How anxiously I yet hope to hear that the parcel is safe; if you can endure to send me anything more; it had better be addressed to C. Darwin Esq. 7. Park St Grosvenor Sqre.— London my Brother’s who lives in Park St, & it is safer addressing anything there, than to my house in the country.— For a letter, however, my address is given at the head of this letter.— I am most particularly anxious to examine any species of Scalpellum, besides the S. vulgare.— Stroem described in 1788 a Lepas with 7 valves6 from the northern Gorgonia placomus; do you know this?


See letters to Sven Lovén, 12 November 1849, and to J. G. Forchhammer, 1 December [1849], n. 3.
See letter to Albany Hancock, 29 September [1849], n. 9. CD had obtained these specimens, found on the back of a dolphin and which he named Siphonicella, from Richard Thomas Lowe. Steenstrup was able to supply him with others and with a published description in which he called the genus Xenobalanus (see Living Cirripedia (1854): 439 and Correspondence vol. 5, letter to J. J. S. Steenstrup, 16 October [1851]).
Anatifera cretæ (Scalpellum (?) cretæ), described in Fossil Cirripedia (1851): 45.
Linnaeus included both pedunculate and sessile cirripedes under Lepas. See CD’s note on the problem of nomenclature that this had created (Living Cirripedia (1851): 67 n.).
Steenstrup 1842. CD read the English translation of the German version of this work (Steenstrup 1845b) in April 1846 (DAR 119; Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV), and his annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL. On the importance of Steenstrup’s book for nineteenth-century naturalists, see Winsor 1976 and Farley 1982.
CD discussed this specimen in a section on dubious species in Living Cirripedia (1851): 374–5. CD suspected that ‘this is the common Scalpellum vulgare, and that Stroem counted the valves only on one side, overlooking the rudimentary and concealed rostrum; and this would give seven for the number of the valves.’ (p. 375). The reference is to Stroem 1788. Scalpellum, like Ibla, was notable for its unusual sexual relations.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Farley, John. 1982. Gametes & spores: ideas about sexual reproduction, 1750–1914. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Living Cirripedia (1851): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Lepadidæ; or, pedunculated cirripedes. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1851.

Living Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Balanidæ (or sessile cirripedes); the Verrucidæ, etc. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1854.

Steenstrup, Johannes Japetus Smith. 1842. Om Forplantning og Udvikling gjennem vexlende Generationsraekker, en saeregen form for Opfostringen i de lavere Dyreklasser. Copenhagen.

Stroem, Hans. 1788. Beskrifelse over Norske Insecter, femte Stukke. Nye Samling af det Kongelige Danske Videnskabers Selskabs Skrifter 3: 264–300.

Winsor, Mary Pickard. 1976. Starfish, jellyfish and the order of life: issues in nineteenth-century science. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.


CD is distressed that JS’s shipment of fossils has been lost: "of all the Cirripedes in the world, I most wish to dissect the Alepas squalicola". Welcomes JS’s offer to send some northern recent species. CD finds great confusion in the current classification of cirripedes in British museums; different genera are made into one species, mere varieties are made into distinct species. If JS would give him some named common northern species, it would be of great assistance.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Johannes Japetus Smith (Japetus) Steenstrup
Sent from
Source of text
Det Kongelige Bibliotek, Copenhagen (NKS 3460 4to)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1281,” accessed on 25 June 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4