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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Bernhard Tegetmeier   16 January [1866]

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

Jan 16th

My dear Sir

At last after 10 months’ illness I am better & able daily to do one or two hours’ work, & so am going on with my everlasting volume.1 Therefore I want to know what progress has been made with the wood-blocks or rather drawings of the pigeons.—2 If not finished, I shd. wish no time to be lost.— Could you aid me in getting a common Dovecot pigeon not chequered (with wing-bars, & tail-bar) drawn, in order to show standard of comparison for the other breeds.3

Lastly, will you be so kind as to return me the Pigeon Book by Belgian man, as I want to consult it before long.4 Do you think you could get Mr Zurhorst to try his experiment again this Spring on the eggs from Cochin crossed by Spanish & let me see eggs.?—5

I hope that you & your family are all well—

Pray believe me | My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. If there is a difficulty about getting a dead non-chequered Dovecot half-wild Pigeon for drawing, I could cut out a fairly good drawing out of Dixons Dovecot Book,6 but then the pigeon in comparison with others would not be in true proportion or scale.—


For CD’s illness in 1865, see the letter to H. B. Jones, 3 January [1866] and nn. 2–8, and Correspondence vol. 13, Appendixes II and IV. CD also refers to his work on Variation, which had occupied him intermittently since January 1860 (see Correspondence vol. 13, letter to John Murray, 4 April [1865] and n. 3). In 1866, CD worked on Variation continuously except between 1 March and 10 May (see ‘Journal’, Appendix II).
CD and Tegetmeier corresponded in 1865 about the engagement of Luke Wells to make drawings of pigeons for Variation (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 13, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 6 April [1865] and nn. 3 and 4). Tegetmeier made arrangements for this with the publisher (see Correspondence vol. 13, letter from W. B. Tegetmeier to John Murray and R. F. Cooke, 17 April 1865, and letter from R. F. Cooke to W. B. Tegetmeier, 18 April 1865).
CD used an illustration of a dead specimen of Columba livia in Variation 1: 135, and presented the species as the ‘standard of comparison’ in his detailed comparisons of different breeds (Variation 1: 134 et seq.); see also n. 6, below. A dovecot pigeon, with wing and tail bars and without chequering, would closely resemble C. livia, the rock pigeon, which CD held to be the progenitor of all breeds of pigeon (Variation 1: 131–224; see also Origin, p. 23). On the relationship of dovecot pigeons to C. livia, see Variation 1: 185–7.
The reference is to Chapuis 1865. CD had sent Tegetmeier his copy in June 1865 (see Correspondence vol. 13, letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 20 June 1865 and n. 3). There is a lightly annotated copy in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 165).
No reference to an earlier experiment by Frederick William Zurhorst has been found. For the inconclusive results of CD’s suggested experiment on the eggs resulting from a cross between Cochin and Spanish fowl, see the letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 10 December [1866]. For CD’s discussion of variability in the size and colour of eggs among different breeds of fowl, see Variation 1: 248–9.
CD refers to Dixon 1851, an annotated copy of which is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 199–201); the illustration of the ‘dovehouse pigeon’ was not cut out of this copy. CD had previously sought permission from the publisher to use an illustration of the dovecot pigeon from Dixon 1851 (Correspondence vol. 13, letter to John Murray, 31 March [1865] and n. 17). For details of the varieties of pigeon illustrated in Variation, see Correspondence vol. 13, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 6 April [1865] and n. 4. See also n. 3 above.


Chapuis, Félicien. 1865. Le pigeon voyageur belge. Verviers: Imprimerie de Ch. Vinche.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Dixon, Edmund Saul. 1851. The dovecote and the aviary: being sketches of the natural history of pigeons and other domestic birds in a captive state, with hints for their management. London: John Murray.

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.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

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


What progress has been made with pigeon drawings for Variation?

Can WBT persuade Mr Zurhorst to repeat a pigeon experiment?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4977,” accessed on 11 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14