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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Vladimir Onofrievich Kovalevsky   [January–March 1869]1

My dear Sir

I did not answer your first letter immediately, and yesterday I received your second letter with questions concerning the Edition of your “Origin”2   The publisher is not living here but at Moscow, I write to him to day and shall directly after receiving his answer send it to you. There are two russian editions of the “Origin”, no remark is made to show from which Engl-edition the translation was made but I think it is from the Second Engl. edition; the second Russ. edition is merely a reprint from the first without any corrections or additions.3 At all events if there is no hope of a new edition appearing in a short time I will with your permission translate all the additions of the Fifth Engl. edition of the “Origin” and print them aparte as a supplement.—4

I am very astonished that Messr. Petter & Cassel have complained to you of my not fulfilling an engagement towards them5—but as there never was an engagement I dont well understand what they are complaining for,—the matter is simply thus: One of my partners asked me to go, during my visit in England, at Messr Cassel and ask them if “in case there will be a Russian edition of an illustrated Bible they will sell coppercasts of their great illustrated Bible”,—he gave me full power to treat about the price;—Mrs Cassel consented to sell coppercasts at 6d per sq. inch.— After my returning in Russia I knew that all endeavours of my partner to have a permission for printing an illustrated Bible were in vain, all the holy & Scriptural books being considered as litterary property of the Chief Church establishment (Synode)—and in this sense I wrote to Mrs Cassel, saying that our Government did not allow to print holy books to private persons and therefore there could be no russian Edition of the Illust. Bible, thanking them for their readiness to furnish casts I could make no use of them.— Not one single inch of casts was commanded, and not one made for me, so that I consider Mrs Cassel pretension as wholly unfounded, but I thank you very much you wrote me about it.

My brother is now in the University of Casan, he will be very pleased with the good opinion you formed on account of his Ascidiae— 6 The year beeing at Triest he made the full development of the “Pyrosoma” and came to entirely different conclusions with Mr Huxley, who wrote his memoir I think only studying preserved specimens.—7

Yours very truly | V. Kovalevsky

As soon as I receive an answer from Moscow, I shall communicate it to you.—


The date range is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from V. O. Kovalevsky, 13 September 1869, and by the dates of CD’s preparation of the fifth edition of Origin (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 17, Appendix II)).
CD’s two letters to Kovalevsky have not been found.
The Russian editions of Origin (Rachinskii trans. 1864 and Rachinskii trans. 1865) were published by the firm A. I. Glazunov.
Origin 5th ed. was published in 1869; Kovalevsky’s proposed supplement was not printed.
The reference is to the publishing firm, Cassell, Petter, & Galpin. No letter from the firm to CD registering a complaint about Kovalevsky has been found, but see Correspondence vol. 16, letter to Cassell, Petter & Galpin, [August–December 1868].
Alexander Onufrievich Kovalevsky was a professor at Kazan from 1868 to 1869 (DSB). CD had received a copy of ‘Entwickelungsgeschichte der einfachen Ascidien’ (Developmental history of simple ascidians; A. O. Kovalevsky 1866) in 1867 (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter from V. O. Kovalevsky 15 March 1867 and n. 6). CD’s heavily annotated copy of the paper is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. CD referred to Kovalevsky’s discovery of the relation between larval ascidians and vertebrates in Descent 1: 205.
Pyrosoma is a genus of colonial pelagic tunicates. Kovalevsky refers to Thomas Henry Huxley and his paper ‘On the anatomy and development of Pyrosoma’ (T. H. Huxley 1859). When A. O. Kovalevsky published his observations on development of Pyrosoma in 1875 (A. O. Kovalevsky 1875), he referred favourably to Huxley’s work.


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.

DSB: Dictionary of scientific biography. Edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie and Frederic L. Holmes. 18 vols. including index and supplements. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1970–90.

Origin 5th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 5th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1869.

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.


Has written to Moscow about translations of Origin. Wishes to translate additions to the fifth English edition and print them as a supplement.

Pleased by CD’s high opinion of Alexander Kovalevsky.

Letter details

Letter no.
Vladimir Onufrievich Kovalevsky (Владимир Онуфриевич Ковалевский)
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 169: 54
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6541,” accessed on 14 July 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17