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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   14 March [1865]1

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

Mar 14.

My dear Sir

I am much obliged for your note & the feathers.2 You must not on any account fatigue your eyes with the M.S.3 I quite agree that you ought to send a short report to the Royal Soc. I am not surprized at the results.4

I do not like to trouble you but I should like to hear the date of the 1st No. of the Field containing the Articles on the Pigeon that I might order them.5

I have been much interested by yr article on the Carrier; & the wood cut seems to me quite excellent.6

In my book I shall have two Chapters on Pigeons like that on Fowls, & I shd like to illustrate the former with about 6 woodcuts as large as a page;7 I had intended applying to Harrison Weir but if Mr Wells knows other fancy pigeons well, I think I cd not do better than to employ him.8

I was thinking that it wd be desirable to have cuts of the head alone (of almost full size) of the Spanish, Polish, & Hamburg breeds of Fowls.—9

In the course of a month or two when your eye sight will be better I hope you will allow me to consult you on this subject.

I thought of H. Weir because I thought I cd trust him as a known fancier to make me drawings of highly developed birds not caricatured.10

Believe me my dear Sir | yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin

P.S. Would it be worth your while (I am sure that you know that I intend nothing disrespectful to you) to aid me for a fee of two guineas in making terms with Mr Weir or Mr Wells for the desired woodcuts of 6 or 7 pigeons & of the Heads of 3 or 4 Cocks & seeing to drawings before they are cut when on wood, that they are satisfactory & seeing proofs of the cuts.11 So that I might have your guarantee that they were faithfully executed. That would not give you a great deal of trouble, though it would be considerable.— I have so little strength that I am very anxious to economise work. I shd like good cuts of Pouter Carrier, Barb— Short-faced Almond Tumbler & according to cost also of Fantail, Jacobin & Turbit.12


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 13 March 1865 .
In his letter of [28 February – 5 March 1865] , Tegetmeier mentioned that he had injured his right eye.
See letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 13 March 1865, and n. 9. Tegetmeier sent CD a packet containing five issues of the Field with his letter of 27 March 1865 (see letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 27 March 1865 and n. 1); these items are in DAR 138.3 and most are lightly annotated.
The reference is to Tegetmeier’s article on the smerle or Antwerp carrier pigeon published in the Field, 25 February 1865, p. 139 (see letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 13 March 1865 and n. 7). The article was illustrated by a wood-engraving by Luke Wells.
CD refers to Variation, which was published in two volumes in 1868. Chapters 5 and 6 discussed variation in pigeons (Variation 1: 131–224); chapter 5, ‘Domestic pigeons’, included seven illustrations by Wells (see n. 6, above). For CD’s work on pigeons, see J. A. Secord 1981.
Harrison William Weir was a noted pigeon fancier, poultry breeder, and animal painter and engraver (DNB). In addition to providing a drawing of Columba livia from a dead bird, Wells was commissioned to prepare drawings from living representatives of six domestic breeds of pigeon (Variation 1:135 n. 6). See n. 10, below. See also letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 27 March 1865, letters to W. B. Tegetmeier 28 March [1865], 6 April [1865], and [7 April 1865], and letter to John Murray, 31 March [1865].
Chapter 7 of Variation included illustrations of the heads of Spanish, Hamburgh, and Polish fowl (Variation 1: 226 and 228–9). The illustrations were drawn by Wells (see letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, [7 April 1865]).
See n. 8, above. CD had met Weir in the course of procuring pigeon specimens and acknowledged his indebtedness to him in Variation (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 15 March [1856], and Variation 1: 132 n. 2). Weir had designed the colour plates for Wingfield and Johnson’s Poultry book (edited by Tegetmeier; Wingfield and Johnson 1856–7); his illustrations were drawn from life and printed in colour under his supervision (ibid., title page). An annotated copy of Wingfield and Johnson 1856–7 is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 798–800). Weir had also designed the illustrations for Wingfield and Johnson 1853.
According to CD’s Classed account book (Down House MS), CD made a payment of £3 3s. to Tegetmeier for ‘wood cuts’ on 24 January 1866. See also letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 27 March 1865 and nn. 3 and 4.
The pigeon breeds illustrated in Variation were English pouter, English carrier, English barb, English fantail, African owl, and short-faced English tumbler (Variation 1: 137, 140, 145, 147, 149, 152). CD noted that these were drawn with ‘great care’ by Wells from living birds selected by Tegetmeier (Variation 1: 135 n. 6).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Secord, James Andrew. 1981. Nature’s fancy: Charles Darwin and the breeding of pigeons. Isis 72: 162–86.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Asks for WBT’s help in arranging for woodcuts to illustrate pigeon chapters of Variation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description
LS(A) 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4786,” accessed on 26 September 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13