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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Robert Fitch   15 January [1850]

Down Farnborough Kent

Jan 15th.

My dear Sir

I must send one line to thank you for the truly kind way you take the accident to your specimen.— I have now mended it; there were 13 fragments, but they fit so well that with the head 18 inches or two feet off, the injury cannot be perceived, & the specimen is as good as ever for Scientific purposes.— I am very grateful for your offer, of a duplicate; but I must tell you that as soon as my monograph is completed, I shall give all my specimens to Brit. Mus.1 Possibly the fossil species may be published by Palæntog. Soc.—2

Your specimens3 consist of (1st) the Scalpellum fossula (as I intend to call it, if I find that it has been nowhere described) its affinities I have correctly given you.—4 Your specimens contain all the valves except one or two: there is a large single diagram unsymmetrically curved;5 this is, I believe, a right-hand anterior latera of lower whorl, & correspond to the valve missing in your specimens, but if so the species must have attained a great size. The only other specimen, I have seen, of S. fossula is a right hand broken scutum in Mr J. Sowerby’s collection from Norwich.

Secondly you have a Carina of the Scalpellum (Pollicipes) Sulcatum of Sowerby.6

Thirdly there is a right-hand scutum of a Scalpellum (the one broken & repaired), probably the S. (Pollicipes) maximum of J. Sowerby.—

Fourthly you have a pair of Terga of a Pollicipes, I believe new spec.—

I will attend to all your wishes about the specimens: you need not doubt my referring for my own sake (independently of gratitude) to your Collection, as place of deposit of specimens described. How I wish I cd see a few more specimens even with two valves together: there is always a risk in describing separate valves of making several nominal species out of one. If you have any oddly shaped, curled valves they wd be very interesting to me; indeed the more I see the more likely I am to come to correct conclusions—

I can generally now tell the position of a separate Valve, even when the other valves are quite unknown: Judging from the keel valve alone, I think that I have now before me five species of cirripedia from the Chalk. & at least as many more from the Gualt.—

But I am troubling you with details. If I had plenty of specimens I might perhaps make out as many species from the other valves as from the Carina or Keel valve.—

Pray believe me | Yours sincerely obliged | C. Darwin

I forgot to say, that in examining the Boxes sent, I see one has been crushed in the corner & that injury not produced by any jar, & therefore I hope that your specimens will go back quite safe in wooden Box

P.S.7 I have opened my letter to say that I have been at work on your specimens, & know from analogy that the single keel-valve specimen of S. sulcatum; has a third lower side in the upper half entirely hidden in the chalk: your specimen is exteriorly more perfect than any I have seen, yet I cannot have it drawn without I cd exhibit this lower side in upper half:= I am sure I cd clear chalk from it with safety on one side, as I have done with Mr Sowerby’s specimens. At present the chief characteristic of your valve is hidden.— I enclose envelope directed to save your time: will [you] write word, "yes" or "no" on slip of paper & no more & I will act accordingly.—

I am sorry to say that I have this morning heard from my Brother in London that his house is full & he cannot receive me next week  from this cause & from my wifes confinement I fear I must put off going to London for a week more. I pledge my honour nothing but good reason shall delay me having your specimens drawn & returned.

I really apologise for length of this note.


CD gave all living Cirripedia type specimens to the British Museum. Duplicate specimens were given to the Cambridge University Museum of Zoology (including his slide collection), to John Stevens Henslow for a small exhibit at the Ispwich Museum, and to George Brettingham Sowerby. In 1880, Sowerby’s collection was purchased by the Liverpool Free Public Museum, but it was destroyed in the Second World War.
The two volumes of Fossil Cirripedia (1851, 1854) were published in 1851 and 1854 by the Palaeontographical Society.
Fitch’s specimens in the Norwich Castle Museum are illustrated in Trenn 1974, p. 478 (fig. 3).
See Trenn 1974, p. 479 (fig. 4).
Classified by CD as a variety of Scalpellum maximum (Fossil Cirripedia (1851): 34–5).
This P.S. is actually bound with Fitch’s letter of [28 January 1850], but the references to Emma Darwin’s confinement and to the postponement of CD’s trip to London indicate that it belongs here.


Fossil Cirripedia (1851): A monograph on the fossil Lepadidæ, or, pedunculated cirripedes of Great Britain. By Charles Darwin. London: Palaeontographical Society. 1851.

Fossil Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the fossil Balanidæ and Verrucidæ of Great Britain. By Charles Darwin. London: Palaeontographical Society. 1854.

Trenn, Thaddeus J. 1974. Charles Darwin, fossil cirripedes, and Robert Fitch: presenting sixteen hitherto unpublished Darwin letters of 1849 to 1851. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 118: 471–91.


Discusses fossil cirripede specimens from RF’s collection. Comments on problems of describing their valves.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Robert Fitch
Sent from
Source of text
Norwich Castle
Physical description
ALS 10pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1291,” accessed on 4 June 2023,

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