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Darwin Correspondence Project

To R. F. Cooke   22 April [1871]1

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

Ap. 22d

My dear Sir

You were so good as to say you wd. make enquiries about cost of the Woodbury process of printing photographs.—2 I shd. much wish soon to have some definite information.— viz cost with paper of page of size of Origin, & whether it costs more to have 2 figures on page; though this wd. rarely occur with me.— Also cost of once folded Plate, with several figures if their size allowed their introduction on one such Plate. Lastly how can the number or figure for the Plate be introduced.— I fear that I must introduce several Photographs; & the cost of illustrations will altogether be very heavy.—

I think it wd be worth while to get Estimate of the Heliotype Process, Edwards & Kidd 22 Henrietta St, for reproduction of Photographs of size of page of Origin—3 By this process common paper is printed on with Printers ink & there is no need for mounting.— I have seen some very good illustrations by this process.—

Whenever Mr. Cooper tells you of cost of his woodcuts, please inform me: he has succeeded very fairly well in one.—4

How about cheap Edit. of Origin?5

How about new Edit or Reprint of the Descent of Man?6 Please remember that I want one copy sent here.—7 Has the Times article injured sale?8

My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin.

P.S. Since the above was written I have received specimen page for new Edit.—9 The type seems clear, but lines rather close. The Cost at which volume could be sold is the great point— Could there be cheaper cover? This is better type than Lyell’s Students Manual,10 but cost seems to me chief point, so as to get wide circulation.—


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from R. F. Cooke, 26 April 1871.
No previous letter from Cooke on this subject has been found. The photographs were for Expression. Woodburytype is a process invented by Walter Bentley Woodbury in which a design on a film of gelatine, obtained from a photographic negative, is transferred to a metal plate from which it may be printed (OED).
For more on Edwards & Kidd and the heliotype process, a new method for mass-producing photographs using printing plates, see Hannavy ed. 2008, pp. 190–2, and Prodger 2009, pp. 108–10.
James Davis Cooper provided woodcut illustrations for Expression.
CD refers to Origin 6th ed., which was published in 1872 at a reduced price (see Freeman 1977).
John Murray produced a third printing of Descent, with some textual changes, in April 1871 (Freeman 1977).
There was a hostile review of Descent in The Times, 7 April 1871, p. 3, and 8 April 1871, p. 5 (see also letter to John Murray, 13 April [1871]).
CD refers to Origin 6th ed.
CD refers to Charles Lyell and his Student’s elements of geology (Lyell 1871).


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

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.

Lyell, Charles. 1871. The student’s elements of geology. London: J. Murray.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Prodger, Phillip. 2009. Darwin’s camera: art and photography in the theory of evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Detailed questions about illustrations for [forthcoming] Expression.

Asks whether Times review has hurt sales of Descent.

The type on specimen page of Origin [6th ed.] seems clear, but lines are close. The cost is the great point for a wide circulation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Robert Francis Cooke
Sent from
Source of text
National Library of Scotland (John Murray Archive) (Ms. 42152 ff. 285–6)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7705,” accessed on 25 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19