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Darwin Correspondence Project

Dates of composition of Darwin's manuscript on species

Many of the dates of letters in 1856 and 1857 were based on or confirmed by reference to Darwin’s manuscript on species (DAR 8--15.1, inclusive; transcribed and published as Natural selection). This manuscript, begun in May 1856, was nearly completed by June 1858. At that point Darwin was ‘interrupted’, as he put it, by a letter from Alfred Russel Wallace which provided a summary of Wallace’s theory of transmutation (letter to Charles Lyell, 18 [June 1858]). Darwin recorded in his ‘Journal’ the dates and headings of chapters as they were completed.

The following table gives the date of completion of each chapter as recorded in the ‘Journal’ and the chapter headings as supplied by Darwin, followed by the reference of the manuscript original in the Darwin Archive, Cambridge University Library. The page numbers of the published versions of the chapters (Natural selection) are also given. Chapter 1 is not extant nor was it recorded in Darwin's ‘Journal’. Chapter 2 is not extant but was recorded in Darwin's ‘Journal’.


Chapter number

Date completed

Chapter title and references


[Not known]

[Variation under domestication][1] (not extant)


13 October 1856

[Variation under domestication][2] (not extant)


13 October 1856

Geographical distribution (DAR 14; Natural selection, pp. 534--66)


16 December 1856

On the possibility of all organic beings occasionally crossing, & on the remarkable susceptibility of the reproductive system to external agencies (DAR 8; Natural selection, pp. 35--91)


26 January 1857

Variation under nature (DAR 9; Natural selection, pp. 95--171)


3 March 1857

The struggle for existence as bearing on natural selection (DAR 10.1; Natural selection, pp. 173--212)


31 March 1857

On natural selection (DAR 10.2; Natural selection, pp. 214--74)


29 September 1857

Laws of variation: varieties & species compared (DAR 11.1; Natural selection, pp. 279--338)


29 September 1857

Difficulties on the theory of natural selection in relation to passages from form to form (DAR 11.2; Natural selection, pp. 339--86)


29 December 1857

Hybridism (DAR 12; Natural selection, pp. 388--462)


9 March 1858

Mental powers and the instincts of animals (DAR 13; Natural selection, pp. 466--527)


12 June 1858[3]

[Discussion on large genera and divergence] (DAR 15.1; Natural selection, pp. 134--64)


12 June 1858

[Correcting chapter 6] (DAR 10.2: 26a--nn; Natural selection, pp. 226--50)



[1] The title of this chapter has been taken from a table of contents to which Darwin added the names of chapters as he completed them (Natural selection, pp. 21--4). The manuscript of the table of contents is in DAR 8: 1--8. One folio from the chapter is extant (DAR 47: 95).

[2] This title has also been taken from Darwin's table of contents (see n. 1, above).

[3] In Natural selection, p. 95, Robert Stauffer suggests that the section intended to be added to chapter 4 was completed on 14 April 1858. Stauffer considers the alterations to chapter 6 were completed by 12 June. However, it seems more likely that Darwin worked on the revisions for both chapters during the period 14 April to 12 June.

About this article

This article has been adapted from The correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6, Appendix III.