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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Jacques Boucher de Perthes1    23 June 1863

Abbeville

23 juin 1863

Cher et honoré Monsieur

Votre lettre du 16 m’a causé une grande satisfaction et je vous en remercie.2 Je tiendrai toujours en grand honneur de correspondre avec vous qui avez pris une si belle place dans la Science et dont les idées se rapprochent si bien avec les miennes

Je ne sais pas si vous avez eu connaissance de mon livre qui a paru en 1838 sous le titre de la creation, essai sur la progression des etres. 3 il a passé fort ignoré parce que la lecture n’en est pas amusante, mais tel qu’il est je vous prie de l’accepter. Je ne l’ai pas ici car imprimé a peu d’exemplaires. Il est devenu assez rare mais au moyen du bon ci joint vous pourrez par occasion le faire prendre ‘a Paris. J’y joint le der. volume (de 1857 ‘a 1860) de notre Societe d’Emulation ou est mon homme antediluvien.4 Si vous avez deja ce volume il serait remplacé par celui de 1852 a 1857   il suffira que vous changiez ces dates sur le bon

Cette malheureuse machoire m’a donné bien de l’ennui, par suite des discussions a laquelle elle a donne lieu5— il en a été de meme il y a 28 ans quand j’ai montré mes premières haches.6 Cependant alors comme aujourdhui j’étais sûr de ce que j’avançais dans ces questions   je ne hasardais rien et quand j’affirme une chose c’est que je l’ai vue. J’ai dit il y a bien longtemps qu’on trouverait l’homme fossile et je repete ma prediction.7 il en sera ici comme des haches que j’ai trouvé partout en Angleterre comme en France, enfin partout ou on en cherche.

Cet homme fossile est aussi là sous nos pieds, mais l’on n’en veut pas. Dès qu’ils se montrent on lui cherche querelles. ‘A combien d’incroyables histoires celui de moulin quignon n’a-t-il pas donné lieu!—on a voulu qu’il y eut été enterré par des mistificateurs quand il a été reconnu que c’etait matériellement impossible, parce qu’il y avait trop de terrain ‘a son exhumation pour rendre une fraude praticable, et d’ailleurs qu’au moins d’être aveugle ou insensé on reconnait toujours quand un terrain a été remué Le dernier des ouvriers même ne s’y trompe pas, on s’en est pris aux haches. On a dit qu’elles étaient fabriquées.— eh! bien l’un n’est pas plus vrai que l’autre— On a pu fabriquer des haches a St Acheul qui ressemblent assez ‘a celles des tourbières qu’en effet on imite assez aisement, mais il n’en est pas ainsi a moulin quignon. Leur imitation demanderait beaucoup d’adresse de soin et de temps, du coup pour en tenir profits les ouvriers devraient les vendre cher, et le prix ordinaire en est de 25 centimes (cinq sous)   j’ai voulu savoir ‘a quoi m’en tenir. J’ai mis au concours la fabrication d’une hache, offrant 20 Francs ‘a l’ouvrier qui en fabriquerait une ressemblant assez ‘a celles de moulin quignon pour que l’on put s’y tromper. Apres beaucoup d’essais personne n’est parvenu ‘a faire meme une hache passable.

Veuillez agréer cher monsieur l’expression de ma haute estime et de mon entier devouement. | J Boucher de Perthes

J’ai fait le bon pour les 3 derniers volumes des memoires de notre Société   Veuillez les accepter tous les trois

A Monsieur Charles Darwin—

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter see Correspondence vol.11, Appendix I.
CD’s letter has not been found.
The reference is to the first volume of Boucher de Perthes 1838–41, a philosophical work in which the author elaborates a theory of the universal evolution of nature, owing much to the romantic tradition (DSB).
The enclosure has not been found. Boucher de Perthes refers to the volume of the Mémoires de la Société Impériale d’Emulation d’Abbeville for 1857–60, which contained Boucher de Perthes 1860a. There is an unannotated reprint of Boucher de Perthes 1860a (Boucher de Perthes 1860b) in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
The reference is to the human jaw found in March 1863 at the Moulin-Quignon quarry, near Abbeville, France, together with teeth and some artefacts, and reported by Boucher de Perthes. The jaw was believed by Boucher de Perthes, Armand de Quatrefages, and other French naturalists to date from the Post-Pliocene (Pleistocene) period. However, on examining the finds in April 1863, Joseph Prestwich, John Evans, and Hugh Falconer concluded that they were forgeries. Between 9 and 13 May, a committee of French and English naturalists met in Paris to discuss the question, and concluded that the implements and jaw were authentic, although several scientists remained unconvinced. See Grayson 1983, pp. 213–17, and Van Riper 1993, pp. 134–9.
Boucher de Perthes first became involved in the excavations for human artefacts in the Somme valley around 1837, although artefacts were found there as early as 1830 (Grayson 1983, pp. 118–20).
See, for example, Boucher de Perthes 1847–64, 1: 245. See also Grayson 1983, pp. 128 and 213.

Translation

From Jacques Boucher de Perthes1    23 June 1863

Abbeville

23 June 1863

My dear and honored Sir

Your letter of the 16th has given me great satisfaction and I thank you for it.2 I will always hold it a great honor to be in correspondence with you who have obtained such a fine place in Science and whose ideas approach so closely to my own.

I do not know if you were aware of my book which appeared in 1838 under the title de la creation, essai sur la progression des etres. 3 it has been mostly ignored, because it did not read as an amusing book, but such as it is—I ask you to accept it. I do not have it here because few copies were printed. It has become rather rare but by means of this enclosed voucher you will be able at some stage to get someone to collect it in Paris. I also enclose the latest volume (from 1857 to 1860) of our Société d’Emulation, in which my antediluvian man appeared.4 If you already have this volume it can be replaced by that of 1852 to 1857. All you have to do is change the dates on the voucher.

That unfortunate jaw has caused me much trouble following the discussions to which it has given rise.5 It was the same 28 years ago when I exhibited my first axes.6 Nevertheless then as today I was certain of whatever I proposed on these matters   I guessed at nothing and when I assert something it is because I have seen it. I said a very long time ago that fossil man would be found and I repeat my prediction.7 it will be the same as those axes that I found everywhere in England as in France, in short everywhere one looks for them. Fossil man is also there under our feet, but he is not wanted. As soon as a specimen is discovered, people seek to quarrel with it. The Moulin Quignon find has given rise to so many incredible stories!— people wanted it to have been buried by hoaxers although it was acknowledged that this was physically impossible because there was too much earth at its exhumation to render a fraud practicable, and moreover, unless one is blind or senseless, one can always see when a site has been disturbed   Even the least experienced workman is not fooled, so then the axes bacame a target. It was said that they were forgeries— well! one is no truer than the other— It was possible to manufacture some axes at St Acheul which are fairly similar to those found in peat bogs, which are indeed fairly easily imitated, but this is not the case at Moulin Quignon. Their imitation would require a great deal of skill care and time, so that in order to make a profit the workmen would have to sell them for a great deal of money, and the normal price is 25 centimes (five sous). I wanted to be absolutely sure of this. I set up a competition in which I offered 20 Francs to the workman who could make one similar enough to those of Moulin Quignon to fool people. After very many tries, no one has come near to making even a passable axe.

Please accept, my dear sir, the expression of my high esteem and complete devotion. | J. Boucher de Perthes

I made out the voucher for the last 3 volumes of the memoirs of our society   Please accept all three.

To Mr Charles Darwin—

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original French, see Correspondence vol.11, pp. 502–3.
CD’s letter has not been found.
The reference is to the first volume of Boucher de Perthes 1838–41, a philosophical work in which the author elaborates a theory of the universal evolution of nature, owing much to the romantic tradition (DSB).
The enclosure has not been found. Boucher de Perthes refers to the volume of the Mémoires de la Société Impériale d’Emulation d’Abbeville for 1857–60, which contained Boucher de Perthes 1860a. There is an unannotated reprint of Boucher de Perthes 1860a (Boucher de Perthes 1860b) in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
The reference is to the human jaw found in March 1863 at the Moulin-Quignon quarry, near Abbeville, France, together with teeth and some artefacts, and reported by Boucher de Perthes. The jaw was believed by Boucher de Perthes, Armand de Quatrefages, and other French naturalists to date from the Post-Pliocene (Pleistocene) period. However, on examining the finds in April 1863, Joseph Prestwich, John Evans, and Hugh Falconer concluded that they were forgeries. Between 9 and 13 May, a committee of French and English naturalists met in Paris to discuss the question, and concluded that the implements and jaw were authentic, although several scientists remained unconvinced. See Grayson 1983, pp. 213–17, and Van Riper 1993, pp. 134–9.
Boucher de Perthes first became involved in the excavations for human artefacts in the Somme valley around 1837, although artefacts were found there as early as 1830 (Grayson 1983, pp. 118–20).
See, for example, Boucher de Perthes 1847–64, 1: 245. See also Grayson 1983, pp. 128 and 213.

Summary

Sends his tranformist book [De la création: essai sur l’origine et la progression des êtres, 5 vols. (1838–41)]; his admiration for CD’s work.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-4219
From
Jacques Boucher de Crèvecoeur de Perthes (Jacques Boucher de Perthes)
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Abbeville
Source of text
DAR 160: 257
Physical description
4pp (French)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4219,” accessed on 16 November 2018, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4219

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

letter