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Darwin Correspondence Project

From V. O. Kovalevsky   [before 8 August 1872]1

218 Euston Road.

Dear Sir

I am very happy Dear Sir to share any profits that will come out of the Edition of Your new book and I hope profits will come out of it.2 We had so much to talk over during my visit, that I could not fully explain to You how matter stands with Your other works.3 I would be extremely glad to share also any profits from Your former 4 vol. but unhappily till now I am a heavy loser by them.4 You will appreciate this seemingly strange fact by my saying that besides my complete Edition of Your Descent of Man, we have in Russia two pirated abridged edition of the same work selling at a very low price.5 We are not protected by a treaty and every successful book printed in England is sure to be published in an abridged and bad translation, which by its low price cuts entirely all profits of a good and complete Edition.

By publishing the work “on Expression” shortly after the original there is a hope of preventing competitive and bad Editions, but still I must be prepared that after the book is out in England it will be translated and printed in a cheap form with some of the woodcuts made in Russia, and the whole book sold at 2/6 or 3s.6 However if profits will come, I and my brother will be very glad to share them.7 If You will allow me, I’ll call one day of the ensuing week, for a short visit, on You, and try to arrange this matter to our mutual satisfaction

Your very truly | W. Kowalevsky


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from V. O. Kovalevsky, 8 August [1872].
Kovalevsky was translating Expression into Russian.
On Kovalevsky’s visit, see the letter to R. F. Cooke, 4 August 1872 and n. 5.
Kovalevsky had translated Variation in two volumes (Kovalevsky trans. 1868–9) and Descent in two volumes ([Kovalevsky] trans. 1871–2). Descent had been banned by the tsarist board of censors, but the ban was lifted after an appeal to the foreign censorship committee (see Correspondence vol. 19, letter from V. O. Kovalevsky, 14 March 1871 and n. 4).
Two other Russian translations of Descent are listed in Freeman 1977. One was serialised in the journal Znanie in 1871; the other was published by A. Morigerovskii (St Petersburg, 1871–2).
Kovalevsky’s translation of Expression ([Kovalevsky] trans. 1872) was the only one to appear in Russia until 1896 (Freeman 1977, p. 148).
Alexander Onufrievich Kovalevsky was overseeing the Russian translation of Expression; his name appears in [Kovalevsky] trans. 1872 as the editorial director.


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.

Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

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.

[Kovalevsky, Vladimir Onufrievich], trans. 1871–2. Proiskhozhdenie cheloveka i podbor’ po otnosheniyu k polu. By Charles Darwin. Translated from English under the editorial direction of I. M. Sechenov. (Russian translation of Descent.) 2 vols. Saint Petersburg: Izdanie Knizhnago Magazina Cherkesova.

[Kovalevsky, Vladimir Onufrievich], trans. 1872. O vyrazhenii oshchushchenii u cheloveka i zhivotnykh. By Charles Darwin. Translated from the author’s proofs under the editorial direction of Prof. A. Kovalevsky. (Russian translation of Expression.) St Petersburg: Tipografia F. S. Sushchinskogo.

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


So far VOK has lost money on his translation of Descent because of pirate editions.

Agrees to share profits on Expression.

Letter details

Letter no.
Vladimir Onufrievich Kovalevsky (Владимир Онуфриевич Ковалевский)
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Euston Rd, 218
Source of text
DAR 169: 56
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8456,” accessed on 21 September 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20