skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Murray   24 September [1861]

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Sept. 24th

My dear Sir

I am very much obliged for your note & very liberal offer.—1 I have had some qualms & fears. All that I can feel sure of is that the M.S. contains many new & curious facts & I am sure the Essay would have interested me, & will interest those who feel lively interest in the wonders of nature: but how far the Public will care for such minute details, I cannot at all tell. It is a bold experiment, & at worst, cannot entail much loss: as a certain amount of sale will, I think, be pretty certain.—2 A large sale is out of the question. As far as I can judge generally the points which interest me, I find interest others; but I make the experiment with fear & trembling,—not for my own sake, but for yours.—

I do not see how I can improve enclosed title: if you alter it, please let me see alteration:—3

When the drawings are made on wood, I will communicate with you about their cutting, as I shall be then ready to print.—

With hearty thanks | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

I think this little volume will do good to the Origin, as it will show that I have worked hard at details, & it will, perhaps, serve [to] illustrate how natural History may be worked under the belief of the modification of Species.—

P.S. | Do you think of little Book with Cloth Back or Pamphlet in paper? I ask because if former, shd. you like an Orchis in Gold; for in that case I could get Mr Sowerby to draw one—for the woodcut, which I shall use will hardly do—4 Please let me have one line, if you wish for an ornament.—


On the various contrivances by which British Orchids are fertilised by Insects; & on the good effects of Intercrossing. by Charles Darwin M.A. FR.S. &c.5


Half of the copies printed (under 2000) were sold by August 1862, but thereafter the edition sold slowly (Freeman 1977, p. 112). See also Correspondence vol. 10, letter to John Murray, 24 August [1862].
See the enclosure and n. 4, below.
Orchids was published in hardback and bound in plum-coloured cloth with a gilt orchid on the cover (Freeman 1977, pp. 112–13).
The title was altered slightly: instead of ‘British Orchids’, it reads ‘British and Foreign Orchids’.


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

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

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.


Thanks JM for his liberal offer [to publish Orchids]. CD fears the public will not be interested, but thinks it will "do good to the Origin as it will show that I worked hard on details and it will perhaps serve [to] illustrate how Natural History may be worked under the belief of the modification of Species".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Murray
Sent from
Source of text
National Library of Scotland (John Murray Archive) (Ms.42152 ff. 108–109B)
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3264,” accessed on 17 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9