skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Richard Kippist   13 May [1863 or 1868]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

May 13th

My dear Sir

If “Audubon’s Ornith. Biography” is in our Library, (5. vols.)2—will you be so kind as to have it ready for Carrier tomorrow Thursday morning.3 I forget whether it is permitted to have 5 vols.; but if not, could you venture to break the rule & mention it to the Secretary, as I much want all vols. as I shall have to refer to them many times during next fortnight.—4

Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin

If Carrier does not bring any vols. I shall understand you have it not.—5


The date range is conjectured from the stationery and from CD’s request to consult Audubon 1831–[9] (see n. 2, below). The printed stationery on which the letter is written was in use between 1861 and 1869 (see Carroll ed. 1976, p. xxiii); 13 May fell on a Wednesday in only two years in that period, 1863 and 1868. Between 1 April and 16 June 1863 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II)), CD was writing a draft of the chapters on crossing and sterility for Variation (Variation 2: 85–191); Audubon 1831–[9] is cited in Variation 2: 154 and 157. Between 17 May and 26 December 1868, CD was working on the section of Descent (Descent 2: 38–238) that discussed sexual selection in birds (CD’s journal (DAR 158)); Audubon 1831–[9] is cited extensively. CD made an unsuccessful attempt to purchase the book at the end of May 1868 (see letter from Williams & Norgate, 2 June 1868, Calendar no. 6222).
Audubon 1831–[9]. Fellows of the Linnean Society were allowed to borrow books from the society’s library, with certain restrictions (List of the Linnean Society of London 1863); Kippist was the society’s librarian (DNB). CD read Audubon 1831–[9] in December 1858 (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 128: 22), and an abstract of the work is in DAR 71: 192–214. The annotated copy in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 21–3) appears to have been purchased after 1868 (see letter from Williams & Norgate, 2 June 1868, Calendar no. 6222).
George Snow of Down operated a carrier service between London and Down every Thursday (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1862).
George Busk was the zoological secretary of the Linnean Society (DNB).
There was a copy of Audubon 1831–[9] in the Linnean Society’s library in 1866 (Catalogue of the library of the Linnean Society).


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

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.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

List of the Linnean Society of London. London: [Linnean Society of London]. 1805–1939.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Post Office directory of the six home counties: Post Office directory of the six home counties, viz., Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. London: W. Kelly & Co. 1845–78.

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


Asks to borrow J. J. Audubon [Ornithological biography (1831–9)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Richard Kippist
Sent from
Source of text
Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4159,” accessed on 28 May 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11