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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Murray   6 February [1868]1

50, Albemarle St. | W.

Feby 6—

My Dear Sir

The curiosity of the Public about your Book, provoked & stimulated as it appears, by the delay, has risen to such a point that the whole edition, including 50 to yourself 50 to the continent, 200 to Scotland & Ireland—1500 copies is exhausted & the demand still continues so that I must send it to press without a day’s delay!2

This state of affairs prevents the need for having recourse to our preliminary conditions as to delaying the authors payment.

The expences of producing these two volumes have been as you are aware unusually high, but taking into account corrections Illustrations & Index they will still produce a sum of wch the two thirds produce amount to £300.—for wch amount, I have the pleasure to enclose my Note of Hand at 3 Months3

I think I may venture on a Second Edition of 1250 Copies, the cost of producing wch, will of course be much less. If you approve of this I beg you to send me any corrections wch may have occurred to you as necessary—4

I am very anxious that the present demand shd have as little cheque as possible. Clowes will undertake to print verbatim without obliging you to revise proofs & will set to work on both volumes at once.5

I was delighted to observe the great success of your son at Cambridge & cannot close this note without offering my congratulations6

I am My Dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | John Murray

Mess Clowes promise me to get the book out in a fortnight, putting 15 men upon each volume!

Chas Darwin Esq

CD annotations7

Top of letter: ‘(Spare copies) | Cost of corrections | Index admirable’ pencil


The year is established by the reference to the printing of Variation (see n. 2, below).
Murray had first advertised Variation in April 1865 (see Correspondence vol. 13, letter to John Murray, 31 March [1865], n. 2). CD had been working on it since 1860 (see Correspondence vol. 8). The first issue of 1500 copies was published on 30 January 1868; Murray had already sold 1250 at his autumn sale in the previous year (Freeman 1977). CD’s presentation list for Variation is reproduced in Correspondence vol. 16, Appendix IV.
In 1866, Murray and CD had agreed that CD would receive two-thirds the estimated profits of the fourth edition of Origin when half the copies were sold; for earlier editions, CD had been paid on publication (see Correspondence vol. 14, letters from John Murray, 21 February [1866] and 24 February [1866]). There is no record of an agreement for deferred payment of two-thirds of the profits of Variation; in January 1867, CD and Murray had agreed that CD would receive half the profits (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter from John Murray, 28 January [1867]). CD entered the £300 from Murray in his banking account under the date 9 May 1868 (CD’s Account books–banking account (Down House MS)).
The second issue of the first edition of Variation incorporated a number of corrections, but was not regarded as a second edition (see Freeman 1977).
William Clowes & Sons printed Variation.
George Howard Darwin had come second in the final examination for the mathematical tripos at Cambridge University (Cambridge University calendar 1868).
CD’s annotations are notes for his letter to Murray of 9 February [1868].


Cambridge University calendar: The Cambridge University calendar. Cambridge: W. Page [and others]. 1796–1950.

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

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.

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.

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


Advance sale of Variation has exhausted the 1500 copies printed. Murray sends note for £300 author’s payment. Wants to print 1250 more immediately.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Murray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Albemarle St, 50
Source of text
DAR 171: 354
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5844,” accessed on 20 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16