skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Friedrich Hildebrand   18 March 1867


March 18th | 1867.

Dear and honoured Sir

you must excuse me not having thanked you before for sending me the copies of my notice on Corydalis,1 but I was waiting for a little treatise of mine to be finished to send you a copy of it. I have ventured to show how right you are when you say that nature abhors perpetual self-fertilisation.2 I heard that there has appeared a new edition of your “Origin of Species”,3 perhaps you have said in it more about selffertilisation and intercrossing than in the first, but I suppose that you did not enter in details and I hope that my little book will not appear quite useless for the public, though I do not believe that you will find much in it that you have not known before. I cannot send you as yet the paper on Aristolochia, it is very annoying that Pringsheim goes on so slowly with his Jahrbücher.4

As there is a want of a good German journal with critics of botanical litterature we are going to fill up this want and I have promised to look out for all that belongs to the flowers of plants, therefore you would oblige me very much if you would let me know occasionaly of any paper that is published in England about this matter or tell the authors to send me a copy that I shall most gladly return with those that are wanted of my papers.5 I send you two copies of my little work, perhaps you will be so kind to give one of them to somebody, who takes an interest in the matter.6

I hope that you are in good health and remain dear Sir | yours | respectfully | Hildebrand


CD had corresponded with Hildebrand on the pollination mechanism of Corydalis cava, and had communicated Hildebrand’s paper ‘On the necessity for insect agency in the fertilisation of Corydalis cava’ to the International Horticultural Exhibition (see Correspondence vol. 14, letter to Friedrich Hildebrand, 16 May [1866] and n. 3). The paper was published in International Horticultural Exhibition 1866, pp. 157–8 (Hildebrand 1866a). A copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Hildebrand later wrote an expanded version in German (Hildebrand 1866–7b).
Hildebrand refers to his monograph Die Geschlechter-Vertheilung bei den Pflanzen und das Gesetz der vermiedenen und unvortheilhaften stetigen Selbstbefruchtung (Sexual division in plants and the law of avoidance and disadvantage of perpetual self-fertilisation; Hildebrand 1867a). CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 378–9). On the title page of the work, Hildebrand included the following quotation, attributed to CD: Nature tells us in the most emphatic manner that she abhors perpetual selffertilisation. No hermaphrodite fertilises itself for a perpetuity of generations. See Orchids, p. 359; see also Origin, p. 97.
The reference is to the fourth edition of Origin. Hildebrand may refer to the German translation (Bronn and Carus trans. 1867).
Hildebrand’s paper ‘Ueber die Befruchtung von Aristolochia Clematitis und einiger anderer Aristolochia-Arten’ (On the fertilisation of Aristolochia clematitis and a few other species of Aristolochia; Hildebrand 1866–7a), was published in Jahrbücher für wissenschaftliche Botanik, a journal founded and edited by Nathanael Pringsheim (NDB).
The journal Hildebrand hoped to start was evidently not established. The first German journal devoted to reviewing botanical literature was the Botanischer Jahresbericht, first published in 1874, but Hildebrand was not one of the editors (Frodin 2001, p. 9).
CD sent the second copy of Hildebrand 1867a to Daniel Oliver (see letter to Friedrich Hildebrand, 20 March [1867]).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Frodin, David G. 2001. Guide to standard floras of the world: an annotated, geographically arranged systematic bibliography of the principal floras, enumerations, checklists and chorological atlases of different areas. 2d edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

International Horticultural Exhibition 1866: International Horticultural Exhibition and Botanical Congress, held in London, from May 22nd to May 31st, 1866. Report of Proceedings. London: Truscott, Son, & Simmons.

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.

NDB: Neue deutsche Biographie. Under the auspices of the Historical Commission of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. 26 vols. (A–Vocke) to date. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot. 1953–.

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.


Intends to begin a journal reviewing the botanical literature.

Sends his book [Die Geschlechter-Vertheilung bei den Pflanzen (1867)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Friedrich Hermann Gustav (Friedrich) Hildebrand
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 166: 206
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5447,” accessed on 20 January 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15