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Darwin Correspondence Project

From R. F. Cooke   12 November 1874

50a, Albemarle Street, London. W.

Nov 12 1874

My dear Sir

We have just recd. from the binder a copy of the new edition of the “Descent of Man” in 1 Vol with the edges cut.1

It was Mr Murray’s intention to make the price 12/-, but now we see it, we feel that 9/- is the most we can venture to charge the public for it, as by the side of Lyell’s Students Geoly 9/ & yr own “Origin” a 7/6 it will not stand a higher price.2 This will necessarily reduce the profits on this edition of 2000 Copies to almost Nil.

The work is however stereotyped & if it takes, future editions will return very good profits.3

Do you approve therefore of 9/-?

Our Sale is tomorrow,4 so reply by return of post or telegraph

Yours faithfully | Robt. Cooke

Chas. Darwin Esq


Descent 2d ed. was published as a single volume, unlike Descent, which had appeared in two volumes. In 1867, CD had publicly declared his preference for books with cut pages (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter to Athenæum, 1 January 1867 and n. 1).
John Murray was the publisher of Origin 6th ed. and the second edition of Charles Lyell’s The student’s elements of geology (C. Lyell 1874).
Stereotyped plates could be kept and reused, thereby minimising the typesetting costs of future editions.
The publisher John Murray customarily held a ‘sale dinner’ in November, at which he sold books at a discount to the main booksellers (Murray 1908–9, p. 540).


Athenæum. 1844. A few words by way of comment on Miss Martineau’s statement. No. 896 (28 December): 1198–9.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 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.

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

Lyell, Charles. 1874. The student’s elements of geology. 2d edition. London: John Murray.

Murray, John. 1908–9. Darwin and his publisher. Science Progress in the Twentieth Century 3: 537–42.

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.


New edition of Descent just off the press. Murray feels price must be 9s instead of 12s, if it is to sell. This will reduce profit to almost nil.

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Francis Cooke; John Murray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Albemarle St, 50a
Source of text
DAR 171: 442
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9717,” accessed on 18 January 2022,

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