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Darwin Correspondence Project

To R. F. Cooke   10 April [1874]1

Down, Beckenham, Kent

Ap. 10

My dear Sir

I should certainly be glad to have the Descent cheaper and sold more largely; but I should be sorry to see it printed like the Origin. A surprising number of persons have told me that the Origin is intolerable in its present state. They say, also, that it looks shabby, but I do not care so much about that.2 Several persons have told me that they cannot and will not even try to read the present Edit. of the Origin. My wife for one says it is intolerable to her. The closeness of the lines is the great fault. Pray get calculation of pages of same type but with from 6 to 8 lines less in each page. My wife thinks, also, (but is not sure) that the closeness of the words in the same line aids in making the type so disagreeable. The notes and Index might still be small and crowded. Would not the book likewise be very thick? I hear scores of people complaining of the heavy and thick books which you publish. The last time I read Lyell’s Principles I had to cut it out of its cover and divide it.3 Reading will soon be a torture under present fashion. Pray consider subject well and let me hear what you think and estimates of size and price. Could you let me see a page with lines further apart than in the Origin? I fear that you will make a very inconvenient and disagreeable book to read.

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

My wife has just come in to protest against making the book “horrible”! But cheapness is a most important advantage

I am utterly puzzled and do not know what to think

The paleness of the ink in the Origin is another great fault.


The year is established by the reference to Descent 2d ed., which was published in November 1874 (letter from R. F. Cooke, 12 November 1874).
Origin 6th ed. had been published with smaller type and a plainer binding.
CD refers to the sixth edition of Charles Lyell’s Elements of geology (C. Lyell 1865), not to his Principles of geology. In a letter to Lyell of 21 February [1865] (Correspondence vol. 13), CD wrote: ‘I found the weight of your vol. intolerable, especially when lying down; so with great boldness cut it into 2 pieces’.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.

Lyell, Charles. 1865. Elements of geology, or the ancient changes of the earth and its inhabitants as illustrated by geological monuments. 6th edition, revised. London: John Murray.

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.


Is glad to have Descent cheaper and sold more largely, but would be sorry to see it printed like the Origin. "The closeness of the lines is the great fault." Fears book might be very thick. "I hear scores of people complaining of the heavy and thick books which you publish."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Robert Francis Cooke; John Murray
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 291
Physical description
C 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9402,” accessed on 19 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22