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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. de C. Sowerby   [13 April 1850]1

Down Farnborough Kent


My dear Sir

I yesterday went carefully over some of your drawings. The outlines appear to me very accurate; but yet a few alterations are wanted in most of them; but these are trifling & refer chiefly to lines of growth.— The scale is not at all too large. What I now write for, is to beg you to do them a little harder & with the lines of growth more distinct. Some of the drawings have the muzziness of Lithography,—a style of art, (viz Lithog.) which in my opinion has been highly injurious to Nat. History— I do not care for artistic effect, but only for hard rigid accuracy. I can well believe that this is very difficult with mutilated specimens.—

Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin

P.S. | I was prevented coming on Thursday morning to the Gardens; otherwise I shd. have much enjoyed a walk with you over them.—2

P.S. I am sorry to say several of the valves in S. quadratum are incorrect— Your drawing in Min Conch.3 is more accurate. The inside drawings of the scuta in S. quadratum & S. fossula4 are useless, from indistinctness & shading, just like Lithographs. I beg you to avoid shading as much as possible—

I must bring up some of the specimens again & I must I am sorry to say give you the trouble of going over them again.—


This letter precedes the letter to J. de C. Sowerby, [8] June [1850]. In his Account Book (Down House MS), CD recorded expenses for two trips to London before June: one on 6 February and the other on 10 April. Both trips were made in order to attend council meetings of the Geological Society (Council Minute Books, Geological Society Archives; Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix I). It is unlikely that CD would have wished to walk in the Botanical Society gardens in February, therefore 13 April (Saturday) is the most likely date of this letter.
Sowerby was secretary of the Royal Botanic Society and Gardens, Regents Park from 1839 to 1869, and resided at the society’s gardens during this time.
Mineral conchology (Sowerby and Sowerby, 1812–46, 7: Tab. 648).
Both specimens are figured on Tab. I in Fossil Cirripedia (1851).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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


CD wants Lepadidae drawings [for Fossil Cirripedia] harder, with lines of growth more distinct; he wants no shading or similarity to lithography, which he thinks has harmed natural history. He realises that mutilated specimens may make accuracy difficult.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James de Carle Sowerby
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1336,” accessed on 14 June 2021,

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