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Darwin Correspondence Project

Minutes of the Board of the Treasury   25 August 1837

25. August 1837

4. Division

The Chancellor of the Exchequer states to the Board that Representations have been addressed to him from many quarters, setting forth the great advantage which would be derived to the Science of Natural History, if arrangements could be made for enabling Mr Darwin to publish in a convenient form, and at a cheap rate, the result of his labors in that branch of Science.

It appears that Mr. Darwin, during the five years in which he has been engaged in a voyage round the World in H.M.S. Beagle, has devoted his attention and labour in making Extensive Collections in the various Departments of Natural History, which in the opinion of the Presidents of the Linnean Society, of the Zoological Society, and of the Geological Society as well as of many other persons distinguished for their attainments in Natural History, it is extremely important to publish upon some uniform plan illustrated by Engravings, but that as Mr Darwin has incurred the whole expence of making the collection, and of paying the Salary of an Assistant, and as such publication will probably not repay that expense which will necessarily be occasioned by the engraving of the Plates, the assistance of the Government might properly be given, as in the case of the Publication of the results of Dr. Richardson’s labors in the same branch of Science, whilst engaged in the expedition in search of the North Western Passage—

The whole of the Collection made by Mr Darwin either has already been, or will hereafter be distributed to the Public Museums, where they will be of acknowledged Service; and under the circumstances of the case, the Chancellor of the Exchequer feels justified in recommending to the Board to give their sanction to the Application of a Sum not exceeding in the whole £1000 from Civil Contingencies in aid of this Publication; upon the clear and distinct understanding that the work shall be published, and the Plates engraved, in such manner as to be most advantageous to the Public at large, upon a plan of arrangement to be previously submitted to, and sanctioned by this Board, after consultation with those persons, who, from their attainments in this Branch of Science, are the most capable of advising their Lordships thereupon;—payments to be made to Mr. Darwin from time to time on account of the said sum of £1000—on the ⁠⟨⁠certi⁠⟩⁠ficate that such progress has been made in the Engravings, in accordance with the plan previously approved of, as to sanction the issue then applied for—

My Lords entirely concur in opinion with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and desire that ⁠⟨⁠a c⁠⟩⁠ommunication may be addressed to Mr Darwin, acquainting him with the views entertained by this Board on this subject, and apprizing him that their Lordships will be prepared to act in conformity with this arrangement upon learning from him that he is ready to proceed with the work upon the principles laid down in this minute, and upon receiving from him a statement of the manner in which he thinks the work should be published and the plates Engraved, so as most effectually to accomplish the object my Lords have in view in sanctioning this payment from the Public Funds, in aid of the Expenses of the work in question,—their Lordships write immediately 1

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An undated memorandum accompanying this minute reads ‘The plan of bringing out this work in numbers seems to be judicious, and the price looking to the number of plates not too large, altho it is not probable that many purchasers would be found for such a Work if published at £9 at once.’ Another note was added ‘I certainly approve of the payment. Let this be communicated to Mr Darwin & transmit to that Gentleman a copy of the minute of 25. Augt 37. TSR [Thomas Spring Rice]’ (The National Archives (TNA) (T1/4524 paper 25824). ).
Alexander Young Spearman, assistant secretary to the Treasury.


The Chancellor of the Exchequer and their Lordships after receiving numerous representations in support of Mr Darwin’s proposal concur in the opinion that Public Funds in aid of the Expenses should be granted as soon as he is ready to proceed in conformity with the enumerated conditions.

Letter details

Letter no.
Secretary of the Post Office
Charles Robert Darwin
Source of text
The National Archives (TNA) (T1/4524 paper 25824)
Physical description
LS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 373A,” accessed on 22 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2