skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Hugh Falconer   9 January 1863

21 Park Crescent.

9th. Jany/63

My Dear Darwin.

In my reply to your last note, I think I omitted to reply to your query about the free digits of Solenhofen Bird Creature.1 I have not yet examined it with the close scrutiny the case requires—nor can one well expect to do that until Owens paper is out: but the free digits are the two next the Axis i.e. the Radial digits: the ulnar one and outer having borne the big quill feathers.2 But mind this is only approximative.

Should you be writing at any time to Wallace I wish you would keep me in mind—for a further enquiry of him—regarding the Timor Mastodon remains3   Has he ever seen them? Where are they? or where can they be seen or hear about—or described?

Yours Ever Sinly | H Falconer


Falconer refers to Archaeopteryx, the Jurassic fossil recently discovered in the Solenhofen quarries of Bavaria (see letters from Hugh Falconer, 3 January [1863] and 8 January [1863]). In his letter to Falconer of 5 [and 6] January [1863], CD asked which digits on the forelimb had split from the wing and developed as claws.
Richard Owen described Archaeopteryx in a paper read before the Royal Society of London on 20 November 1862; the paper was published in part 1 (1863) of the society’s Philosophical Transactions (Owen 1862a). For Owen’s description and illustrations of the two free digits, see pp. 38–9, plate 1 (fig. 1, 1 and 2) and plate 2 (fig. 1, 1 and 2) (Owen 1862a). There is an annotated copy of the number of the Philosophical Transactions containing Owen 1862a in the Darwin Library–CUL; CD would not have received this issue until mid-1863 (see letter from Hugh Falconer, 3 January [1863], n. 7).
In his letter to Falconer of 5 [and 6] January [1863], CD reported Alfred Russel Wallace’s information that ‘abundant Mastodon remains’ had been found at Timor in the Malay Archipelago (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter from A. R. Wallace, 30 November 1861). Falconer was interested in information about potential Timor specimens in connection with his argument against the existence of a fossil elephant in nearby Australia (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to Hugh Falconer, 14 November [1862], and this volume, letter to Hugh Falconer, 5 [and 6] January [1863] and n. 5). See also Falconer 1863a, pp. 96–101.


Answers CD’s query on the free digits of Archaeopteryx.

Letter details

Letter no.
Hugh Falconer
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Park Crescent, 21
Source of text
DAR 164: 12
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3909,” accessed on 20 September 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11