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Darwin Correspondence Project

From V. O. Kovalevsky   2 April 1867

S Petersburg

March 21/2 Ap. 18671


I am very grateful for the very kind answer You gave to my letter;2 in order to occupy as little as possible of your valuable time, I shall be very short and precise in my answer.

I certainly determine on a translation of Your new work, but in reference to woodcuts I could make them as well here, by the artists of the Academy, the more so as I presume that Mr Murray will be a little tickled, as an editor, to give to somebody else stereotypes of a work which he has not already finished himself, but if in some short lines, which I expect in answer, you shall give me the permission to apply to Mr. Murray, I shall do so, and if his charches for stereotypes are not much higher than the woodcuts made here, I shall certainly be very glad to receive them beforehand.3 All I shall ask You, dear Sir, is to inform Mr Murray, that you have had already the kindness to stipulate with me and accept my propositions, so that, in the very improbable case he should receive a similar proposition, not to accept it, or at least to inform me and give me a little preference.4 For my part, I have made similar conditions, in absence of a litterary treaty, with some continental writers, as Mr. Ch. Vogt, Rosmässler, Billroth5 and other, for receiving early printed sheets of some of their works, and shall be very happy to have the same advantage, over other editors who do not like to honour the right of litterary property, also in English books.

It was very foolish to ask You for a special Introduction, not Knowing the public you speak to You shall certainly be at a loss to say something.—6

Your former book, the “Origin of Species” is translated and printed some three years ago, but I understand that the translation is made not from the original but from the German translation of Mr Bronn, the late Prof. at Heidelberg, and with his remarks.7

Mr. Truebner informed me of the conditions You would accept, but I think it shall be better to inform me about it directly, so that I could make a remittance on some London house, for the first half of the first volume.8

Dear Sir | Yours faithfully | W. Kowalewsky

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Wood-cut price of | Payment to me’ red crayon


Kovalevsky gives both the Julian (21 March) and Gregorian (2 April) calendar dates.
Kovalevsky refers to his letter to CD of 15 March 1867 and CD’s letter to him of 26 March [1867].
Kovalevsky refers to his planned translation of Variation (V. O. Kovalevsky trans. 1868–9). In his letter of 26 March [1867], CD had advised Kovalevsky to negotiate directly with his publisher, John Murray, about stereotypes of the woodcuts.
CD mentioned Kovalevsky’s concern about the cost of the stereotypes in his letter to John Murray, 10 April [1867]. No letter concerning Kovalevsky’s position as preferred translator has been found.
Kovalevsky refers to Carl Vogt, Emil Adolph Rossmässler, and Theodor Billroth. Kovalevsky published translations of Vogt 1863 in 1864; of Rossmässler 1863 in 1867; and of Billroth 1863 in 1866 (Davitashvili 1951).
Kovalevsky had asked CD to write a short introduction or preface to his translation; see letter from V. O. Kovalevsky, 15 March 1867, and letter to V. O. Kovalevsky, 26 March [1867].
CD had asked whether there had been a Russian translation of Origin in his letter of 26 March [1867]. The first Russian translation of Origin was Rachinskii 1864. Kovalevsky also refers to Heinrich Georg Bronn, professor of natural science at Heidelberg University, who died in 1862, and to Bronn trans. 1860. Bronn had added editorial comments throughout the text and an additional final chapter of remarks challenging CD’s theory.
Nicholas Trübner’s publishing company published Kovalevsky’s translation of Variation (V. O. Kovalevsky trans. 1868–9). In his letter of 15 March 1867, Kovalevsky had asked CD to write to Trübner about financial arrangements; neither CD’s letter to Trübner nor his reply to Kovalevsky has been found (see letter from V. O. Kovalevsky, 24 April [1867]). See also CD’s annotation.


Billroth, Christian Albert Theodor. 1863. Die allgemeine chirurgische Pathologie und Therapie in fünfzig Vorlesungen: ein Handbuch für Studirende und Aerzte. Berlin: G. Reimer.

Davitashvili, Leo Shiovich. 1951. V. O. Kovalevsky. 2d edition. Moscow: Academy of Science of the USSR.

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.

Rachinskii, Sergei A., trans. 1864. Proiskhozhdenie vidov putem estestvennogo podbora. (Russian translation of Origin.) By Charles Darwin. St Petersburg: A. I. Glazunov.

Rossmässler, Emil Adolf. 1863. Der Wald. Den Freunden und Pflegern des Waldes geschildert. Leipzig and Heidelberg: C. F. Winter.

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

Vogt, Carl. 1863. Vorlesungen über den Menschen. Seine Stellung in der Schöpfung und in der Geschichte der Erde. 2 vols. Giessen: J. Ricker’sche Buchhandlung.


On whether to make woodcuts for Variation in Russia or use Murray’s stereotypes. He has similar advance publication agreements with Carl Vogt, E. A. Rossmässler and Theodor Billroth.

The Russian version of Origin is translated from Bronn’s German edition.

Letter details

Letter no.
Vladimir Onufrievich Kovalevsky (Владимир Онуфриевич Ковалевский)
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
St Petersburg
Source of text
DAR 169: 72
Physical description
3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5452,” accessed on 3 August 2020,

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