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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Henry Doubleday   3 April 1868


April 3rd 1868

My dear Sir,

I have great pleasure in lending you Dr Staudinger’s catalogue of Europæan Lepidoptera— You will see that I have marked a few species with a + of which the males are priced higher than the females but the latter sex is apterous and some of them like mere maggots and I expect few collectors care about more than one specimen as they are certainly not ornamental in a cabinet— I do not think there are a dozen other species of which the males are priced higher than the females—1 I do not think there would be any fallacy to this test—(money value) as it clearly shows that females are more difficult to procure than the males and although in a few cases this may arise from the different habits of the two sexes yet this cannot be said of the butterflies and I think there is not an instance among them of the male being priced higher than the female—2 You can keep the Catalogue as long as you please—

Last evening I heard an Anobium ticking and found it— I will send it to you— if you place the pill box on a table I daresay you will hear it ticking in the evening and if the lid is carefully taken off and you imitate its ticking I have no doubt you will soon find that it will answer you—3

With best wishes believe me | My dear Sir | Yours very Sincerely | Henry Doubleday

C Darwin Esq

CD annotations

1.1 I have … the females— 1.6] crossed blue crayon
1.9 yet this … the female— 1.11] triple scored blue crayon
End of letter: ‘I held a tapping conversation with my friend.’4 pencil
Cover recto] ‘I see Mr D. did not understand that ♀ selects males.’ ink, del ink; ‘Saturnia carpini [above delpopuli’] or Emperor very beautiful.—5 State expressly that males are attracted by odour & have antenna developed— ♀ choose *habitually or occasionally [interl] beautiful males, & beauty transmitted to both sexes—6 | I believe [after del ‘trust only’] because I cannot persuade myself display for nothing—from weak argument of analogy—& still weaker no other explanation of beauty’ ink, crossed ink; ‘Male Saturnia attracted by smell | Number of sexes | D. O. Staudinger Berlin—’ ink, crossed red crayon; ‘(Saturnia [spilosoma] beautiful??) | (Weir—larva of [Spilosoma] menthastri See letter)’7 pencil. All crossed red crayon.
Cover verso] ‘Dr Staudingers List | I think all used but keep for Chance of being wanted’ blue crayon


The enclosure has not been found, but there is a handwritten list in DAR 81: 84–6, showing the prices for male and female specimens of butterflies and moths taken from Otto Staudinger’s December 1866 catalogue. In Descent 1: 312, CD referred to the catalogue, noting that in only eleven species were males priced higher than females (excluding species with apterous females). On butterfly collecting in Victorian Britain, see Salmon 2000.
In Descent 1: 312, CD cited Doubleday on this point.
See also letter from Henry Doubleday, 28 March 1868. Doubleday refers to Anobium tesselatum (now Xestobium rufovillosum), the death-watch beetle.
In Descent 1: 384–5, CD noted that an individual beetle would answer an artificially made tapping noise.
Saturnia carpini is a synonym of S. pavonia, the emperor moth.
In Descent 1: 311, CD mentioned that males of Saturnia carpini would congregate in large numbers around a single caged female, but did not mention they were attracted by odour. In Descent 1: 399–401, CD argued that certain male butterflies and moths were more colourful than the females as a result of sexual selection. He added that the transmission of bright colours to both or only one sex would be determined by which law of inheritance prevailed.
Spilosoma menthastri is a synonym of S. lubricipeda, the white ermine. John Jenner Weir had told CD that birds in his aviary rejected the larvae of this species (letter from J. J. Weir, 24 March 1868).


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Salmon, Michael A. 2000. The Aurelian legacy: British butterflies and their collectors. With additional material by Peter Marren and Basil Harley. Colchester: Harley Books.


Otto Staudinger’s catalogue shows prices of female Lepidoptera to be higher than those of males.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Doubleday
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 81: 78, DAR 82: A8
Physical description
2pp † & cover †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6087,” accessed on 28 October 2021,

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