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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Osbert Salvin   22 August [1875]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

Aug. 22d

My dear Mr. Salvin

I am very much obliged for your memoir which I have read with very great interest. I am surprised that the birds from the different islands prove so similar. How much has been done since my days. It would, indeed, as you say be a fine work for anyone to investigate the perplexing forms on the spot.2

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S | You will see in my Journal, that several specimens ought, if possible, to be collected, of each of the very commonest species from each island, & their habits, nests, eggs, young &c, compared.—3 What a flood of light would be thus thrown on Variation!


The year is established by the reference to Salvin 1875 (see n. 2 below).
CD’s lightly annotated copy of Salvin’s paper on the birds of the Galápagos archipelago (Salvin 1875) is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. CD marked a passage in which Salvin concluded that certain species did not have as restricted a range as CD had claimed (ibid., p. 465). No covering letter from Salvin has been found. For more on CD’s bird specimens from the Galápagos, and later commentary by Salvin and others, see Sulloway 1984 and Steinheimer 2004.
In Journal of researches, his published account of the Beagle voyage, CD put forward evidence that different species of mocking thrushes (Mimus) inhabited different islands in the Galápagos archipelago; he suspected this was also the case with finches (Geospiza), but had not kept the specimens collected from each island entirely separate (Journal of researches (1860), pp. 394–5; see also preface, p. vii).


Journal of researches (1860): Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle around the world, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN. By Charles Darwin. Reprint edition. London: John Murray. 1860.

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

Salvin, Osbert. 1875. On the avifauna of the Galapagos Archipelago. [Read 6 April 1875.] Transactions of the Zoological Society of London 9 (1877): 447–510.

Steinheimer, Frank D. 2004. Charles Darwin’s bird collection and ornithological knowledge during the voyage of H.M.S. ‘Beagle’. Journal of Ornithology 145: 300–20.

Sulloway, Frank J. 1984. Darwin and the Galapagos. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 21: 29–59.


Obliged for his memoir ["On the avifauna of the Galapagos", Trans. Zool. Soc. (April 1875)]. His surprise that the birds from the different islands prove so similar. Comparison of the habits, nests, eggs of the commonest species of each island would throw a flood of light upon variation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Osbert Salvin
Sent from
Source of text
Mrs Sybil Rampen (private collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10132A,” accessed on 19 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23