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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Bibliographisches Institut, Hildburghausen   8 June 1868

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

June 8 1868


Before I come to the object of this letter, permit me to say that I have twice strongly recommended Mr Murray to bring out a translation of Brehm’s Thierleben, for I have now read a considerable part of the book & think it quite excellent, & the illustrations are admirable. Mr Murray’s difficulty I believe is that he thinks the English market stocked with Mr Wood’s work.1

The object of this note is as follows. In about a year’s time I shall publish a book chiefly on the sexual differences of animals, & I intend to illustrate & ornament it with wood cuts.2

A certain number are now being cut, & it has occurred to me that you might perhaps be willing to let me have stereotypes of about 15 of the smaller blocks from Brehm’s work. I should thus get for the same money a rather larger number of wood cuts than if I had them purposely engraved in England. I should of course in each case state that they were taken from Brehm’s work.

My later books have had a very large sale in England & 4 or 5 foreign editions have appeared. Although Brehm’s work is generally known, yet a little further advertisement through my book could do no harm. Should this proposal meet your views, would you be so good as to inform me at what price you would supply me with stereotypes as by the appended list. Should you think the number too great I shd be glad to take some lesser number.

If you accept my proposal I would immediately transmit a cheque for the amount & you cd send me the stereotypes at your convenience.3

I have the honour to remain | Gentlemen | your obedient servant | Charles Darwin

Vol. I. p. 54, 57, 119 Three monkeys
Vol III. p. 317. Bowerbird
324 Paradisea
669 Cosmetornis
745 Rupicola
752 Cephalopterus
Vol IV. 109 Humming Bird
111. do.
326 Cupidonia
471. Polyplectron
625 Machetes
739 Palamedia
743 Rhynchæa (15 woodcuts)4


CD refers to Alfred Edmund Brehm and his Illustrirtes Thierleben (Illustrated animal life: Brehm et al. 1864–9). CD had been introduced to the work by Vladimir Onufrievich Kovalevsky (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter from V. O. Kovalevsky, 15 May 1867, and letter to V. O. Kovalevsky, 24 June [1867]). The publishers of the work, who had sent CD a copy of the volumes already published at Kovalevsky’s request, asked CD to recommend the work to an English publisher (ibid., letter from H. J. Meyer, 30 July 1867). CD had forwarded their request to his publisher, John Murray (ibid., letter to John Murray, 4 August [1867]; see also this volume, letter to John Murray, 9 January [1868]). Thomas W. Wood was an illustrator, and made some of the animal illustrations for Expression. CD’s annotated copy of Brehm’s volumes is in the Darwin Library–Down (see Marginalia 1: 69–71).
CD refers to Descent.
CD paid £10 10s. 9d. for the woodcuts, and reclaimed the cost from Murray (see letter to John Murray, 26 September 1870 (Calendar no. 7327)).
The references are to Brehm et al. 1864–9. CD used the woodcuts as follows: three monkeys (Pithecia satanas (now Chiropotes satanas, the black saki), Cercopithecus petaurista, and C. diana): Descent 2: 283, 309, 311. Bowerbird (Chlamydera maculata, the spotted bower-bird): ibid., p. 70. Paradisea rubra (now Paradisaea rubra, the red bird-of-paradise): ibid., p. 75. Rupicola crocea (now Rupicola rupicola, the Guianan cock-of-the-rock): ibid., p. 88. Cephalopterus ornatus (the Amazonian umbrella-bird): ibid., p. 59. Lophornis ornatus (the tufted coquette) and Spathura underwoodi (now Ocreatus underwoodii, the booted racket-tail), humming-birds: ibid., pp. 76, 77. Cupidonia (Tetrao cupido in Descent; now Tympanuchus cupido, the greater prairie chicken): ibid., p. 57. Polyplectron chinquis (now Polyplectron germaini, Germain’s peacock-pheasant): ibid., p. 90. Machetes pugnax (the ruff: now Philomachus pugnax): ibid., p. 42. Palamedea cornuta (now Anhima cornuta, the horned screamer): ibid., p. 47. Rhynchaea capensis (now Rostratula benghalensis): ibid., p. 202. CD did not use Brehm’s woodcut of Cosmetornis vexillarius (now Macrodipteryx vexillarius, the pennant-winged nightjar), but did use a woodcut of the head of a common wild boar that is not on this list (ibid., p. 263).


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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

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.


Discusses possible English translation of A. E. Brehm’s [Illustrirtes] Thierleben [1864–9].

Asks for permission to use 15 of Brehm’s illustrations [in Descent].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Bibliogr. Inst. Hildburghausen
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.351)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6235,” accessed on 18 April 2021,

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