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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Alexander Agassiz   9 December 1872


Dec. 9, 1872.

I have to thank you for the trouble you have taken in sending me a copy of your “Expression of the Emotions,” which has duly come to hand.1 I have not had a moment to look into it, in part on account of the work of distributing some collections which have lately arrived, and in part owing to the great fire which has devastated Boston, and which has affected us all more or less seriously.2 I have been hit pretty hard, not in a money way, but what is worse infinitely, I have lost a year’s work by the destruction of six Plates of anatomy with the original drawings, of which I have not even a sketch. They had been sent to Boston the morning of the fire to be lettered preparatory to printing. In addition I lost all the stones of the first parts of the “Revision of the Echini;” fortunately about three fifths of the edition of the Plates had been struck off and was safely housed at the Museum. This leaves us with rather a short supply, but the remainder of the book, which I hoped to get out before spring, must be delayed a long time, as I feel neither heart nor have I the time to start fresh and do all this again just as it was completed.3 I have sent to the Zoölogical Society a package for you, which please claim from Mr. Sclater.4 I presume it should arrive a few days after this letter. I have made pretty extensive use of the new processes of photographic printing in my book, and from what I have succeeded in obtaining trust it will hereafter be possible to supersede the old lithographic processes, which are wasteful in time and money, and not half as accurate.5


Agassiz’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for Expression (see Correspondence vol. 20, Appendix V).
The fire, which blazed on 9 and 10 November 1872, had destroyed most of the business area of the city including numerous warehouses (see Sammarco 1997).
Agassiz’s Revision of the Echini was published in parts in 1872 and 1874; it included a separate atlas of plates published in 1872 and 1873. Some of the plates were lithographs, produced by drawing on stone. Agassiz also refers to the Museum of Comparative Anatony at Harvard University.
Philip Lutley Sclater was secretary of the Zoological Society of London.
As well as lithographs and woodcuts, the atlas of A. Agassiz 1872–4 included plates made from photographic negatives by the Woodburytype and Albertype processes (A. Agassiz 1872–4, 1: xi).


Agassiz, Alexander. 1872–4. Revision of the Echini. 4 parts and an atlas of plates. Cambridge, Mass.: University Press.

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

Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Sammarco, Anthony Mitchell. 1997. The Great Boston Fire of 1872. Dover, N.H.: Arcadia.


Thanks for Expression.

Has lost a year’s work in the fire that has devastated Boston.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alexander Agassiz
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Cambridge Mass.
Source of text
G. R. Agassiz ed. 1913, pp. 120–1

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8667,” accessed on 22 October 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20