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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Edward Hitchcock   6 November [1845]

Down Bromley Kent

Nov. 6th.

Dear Sir

Absence from home has prevented me sooner acknowledging your truly generous present of the Final Report on the Geology of Massachusetts.—1 I assure you I feel sensibly the honour & kindness you have done me. I have as yet read only a little, but I see that there will be much that will interest me greatly; I allude more especially to your detailed accounts of the alluvial deposits, ice & water action, &c. &c. Your’s is indeed a magnificent work with its numerous & striking illustrations. I am delighted to possess the excellent plates on the footsteps,2 & I daresay I shall find some further information, though I have carefully read your several papers.3 In my opinion these footsteps (with which subject your name is certain to go down to long future posterity) make one of the most curious discoveries of the present century & highly important in its several bearings. How sincerely I wish that you may live to discover some of the bones belonging to these gigantic birds: how eminently interesting it would be know, whether their structure branches off towards the Amphibia, as I am led to imagine that you have sometimes suspected. The finding the bones of the Rhynchosaurus in the pure hard sandstone of Grindshill in Shropshire (where there are some Reptile footsteps) may give one hopes.4

I am preparing a little volume on the geology of S. America, which, when published next summer, I will beg you to do me the kindness to accept; though it is a miserable acknowledgment for your grand work.

With my sincere thanks and much respect. Pray believe me, dear Sir | Yours faithfully & obliged. C. Darwin


Hitchcock 1841. CD’s copy of the first edition in two volumes is in the Darwin Library–Down.
Plates 31–49 depict fossil footprints that Hitchcock thought were made by birds. They were later shown to be dinosaur tracks (see Dean 1969).
Beginning in 1836, Hitchcock had published a series of papers in the American Journal of Science and Arts about the footprints.
Richard Owen discussed the fossil bones and footprints from the sandstone of Grinshill quarry, near Shrewsbury, in R. Owen 1841, pp. 145–6.


Dean, Dennis R. 1969. Hitchcock’s dinosaur tracks. American Quarterly 21: 639–44.

Hitchcock, Edward. 1841. Final report on the geology of Massachusetts. 2 vols. Northampton, Massachusetts.


Thanks EH for his Final report on the geology of Massachusetts [1841]. Comments on EH’s discovery of fossil footprints.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Edward Hitchcock
Sent from
6 NO 6 1845
Source of text
Amherst College Archives (Edward and Orra White Hitchcock papers: 2 Edward Hitchcock: Correspondence, Box 3, Folder 8)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 925,” accessed on 17 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 3