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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Murray   31 March [1865]1

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

March 31st

My dear Sir

After much delay from illness, I have at last made considerable progress in a Book with some such Title as enclosed, & which I hope will go to press this early autumn.2 Hence it is time to think of the woodcuts. I do not want you to pledge yourself even indirectly to publish, until you see M.S.; but will you aid me about the cuts with advice, I being responsible for all outlay.—

1st. I want 29 cuts of bones (I am sorry so many are unattractive), chiefly skulls & 3 & 4 little bones on same cut.3 Now I must have artist here to explain what is to be done; & I shd. much prefer Mr. G. B. Sowerby, as I am accustomed to him.4 The specimens used have to be drawn right on the wood. But what can be done about cost. How can any agreement be made before drawings are made?—

2d. I want 7 cuts of size of Page of Origin, well executed of chief races of Pigeons (& perhaps 3 Heads of Cocks).5 Now Mr. Wells has lately drawn for the Field some of the pigeons excellently:6 he charges 30s for each drawing (as I hear from sub-editor of Field) & the cutting costs a little more for each.7 But my cuts would be a little smaller. Should I ask him to send an estimate for drawings & cutting to you?? or trust to my friend the Sub-Editor.

3d. I have 5 drawings to be exactly copied,8 so that this will be simple job—

4th I shall want 4 or 5 or 6 cuts of plants, & seeds,9 which Mr Fitch of Kew10 could alone do well: & I shd. think he might be trusted not to overcharge.—

Altogether I shd. wish for very nearly 50 cuts; but if you think this too much for Book (I guess about size of Origin) please advise me; for I could reduce the number to about 35.—11

Lastly kindly inform me whether you think size of Origin good size.—

Please remember that I do not at all wish you to pledge yourself to publish.—

My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

How about Orchis Book?12 I suppose Origin has ceased selling. I shd be very sorry to have now labour of another Edition, but I suppose that will never be wanted.13 I heard yesterday a new French Edit. is wanted14 & this will give me some trouble.—

Of present book I have 7 chapters ready for press & all others very forward, except the last & concluding one.15 Sir C. Lyell read the 1st. Chapt. in M.S. on Dogs, 3 or 4 years ago, & thought favourably, & as it appeared to me certainly too favourably of it.—16

P.S. In the “Dovecote & Aviary by Rev. E. S. Dixon” published by you, there are 2 cuts of wild & Dovecote pigeon, which are well done, & though not necessary, would be very useful for my book, would you have kindness to let me use them, if in your possession?—17


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from John Murray, 1 April 1865.
The enclosure has not been found; Murray advertised CD’s forthcoming book in the Reader, 15 April 1865, p. 427. The notice is under the heading ‘Mr. Murray’s quarterly list of works in the press’, and the title given is, ‘Domesticated Animals and Cultivated Plants, or the Principles of Variation, Inheritance, Re-union, Crossing, Interbreeding, and Selection under Domestication’. See also letter to John Murray, 2 June [1865] and n. 3. Variation was not published until 1868. See also letter to Charles Lyell, 22 January [1865] and nn. 16 and 17.
Variation was published with twenty-five figures of bones, including skulls, of rabbits, pigeons, fowls, and ducks.
George Brettingham Sowerby Jr drew illustrations for South America (1846), Fossil Cirripedia (1854), Living Cirripedia (1851, 1854), and Orchids (1862). In preparing many of these illustrations, Sowerby had attended CD at Down House (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 5, letter to W. D. Fox, 24 [October 1852] and n. 1, and letter to John Lubbock, 10 [September 1853] and n. 3, and Correspondence vol. 9, letter to John Murray, 21 September [1861] and n. 4).
CD refers to the drawings by Luke Wells. See letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 14 March [1865] and n. 6, and 28 March [1865], and letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 27 March 1865 and n. 5.
CD presumably refers to four illustrations of pigs (Variation 1: 69, 72, 75), and a fifth illustration of a rabbit (Variation 1: 108).
Variation has three botanical figures, illustrating pea pods, peach and almond stones, and plum stones (Variation 1: 328, 337, 345).
Walter Hood Fitch had become a freelance botanical artist in 1860; he still often worked for William Jackson Hooker and Joseph Dalton Hooker illustrating Curtis’s botanical magazine (R. Desmond 1995). Fitch had prepared the illustrations for CD’s paper ‘Dimorphic condition in Primula (see this volume, Supplement, letter to Daniel Oliver, 23 March [1861]).
Variation was published with forty-three illustrations.
Of the original printing of 1500 copies of Orchids, 580 remained unsold (see letter from John Murray, 1 April 1865 and n. 7). See also Correspondence vol. 10, letter to John Murray, 9 April [1862], and Freeman 1977, p. 112.
CD refers to the third edition of Origin, which was published in 1861 with a print-run of 2000. A fourth edition of Origin, with a print-run of 1500 copies, was published in 1866 (see Freeman 1977, pp. 78–9).
A French edition of Origin, translated by Clémence Auguste Royer, was published in 1862 (Royer trans. 1862; see Correspondence vol. 10). A second French edition, with notes added by CD, was published in 1866 (see Freeman 1977, p. 102). See memorandum from C. A. Royer, [April–June 1865].
When Variation was published in 1868, it contained twenty-eight chapters.
See Correspondence vol. 8, letter from Charles Lyell, 25 September 1860, and this volume, letter to Charles Lyell, 22 January [1865] and n. 18. CD refers to his draft of chapter 1 of Variation, ‘Domestic dogs and cats’ (Variation 1: 15–48).
The reference is to the illustrations of Columba livia and Columba affinis (a synonym of C. livia) in Dixon 1851, pp. 150 and 163. An annotated copy of Dixon 1851 is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 199–201). Edmund Saul Dixon’s illustrations were not used in Variation.


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

Desmond, Ray. 1995. Kew: the history of the Royal Botanic Gardens. London: Harvill Press with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

‘Dimorphic condition in Primula’: On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations. By Charles Darwin. [Read 21 November 1861.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 77–96. [Collected papers 2: 45–63.]

Dixon, Edmund Saul. 1851. The dovecote and the aviary: being sketches of the natural history of pigeons and other domestic birds in a captive state, with hints for their management. London: John Murray.

Fossil Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the fossil Balanidæ and Verrucidæ of Great Britain. By Charles Darwin. London: Palaeontographical Society. 1854.

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.

Living Cirripedia (1851): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Lepadidæ; or, pedunculated cirripedes. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1851.

Living Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Balanidæ (or sessile cirripedes); the Verrucidæ, etc. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1854.

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.

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.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

South America: Geological observations on South America. Being the third part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1846.

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


Has made progress [on Variation]. Hopes it will go to press in the autumn. Lists his needs for cuts to be made – altogether 50.

Supposes Origin has ceased selling. Would be sorry to have labour of another edition. A new French edition is wanted.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Murray
Sent from
Source of text
National Library of Scotland (John Murray Archive) (Ms.42152 ff. 131–135)
Physical description
ALS 9pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4801,” accessed on 12 September 2023,

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