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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Murray   21 October [1861]

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Monday | Oct 21

My dear Sir

Mr G. B. Sowerby has been here for 10 days making drawings of Orchids. We found it impossible to draw on wood; & it was absolutely necessary first to make perfectly shaded drawings on paper, which are now completed & of course I have paid for them.1 But I have not paid for the drawings being transferred to wood but am quite ready to do so, when the cost can be proportioned. I should like Mr Sowerby to do this, as he will do it best, & further I think it would be a great advantage if he were to certain extent to superintend the cutting, as he says he will.

But I particularly want to call your attention to the fact that a first-rate cutter must be employed. I fear that the expence will be considerable.— I have asked Mr Sowerby to call on you tomorrow (Tuesday) with the drawings for you to settle how the job is to effected. If not done excellently well, the whole thing will be a failure.— The best woodcuts I have ever seen are in Prof. Owen’s British Fossils, (Van Voorst) done by Mr W. Bagg of 63 Gower St;2 but Mr Sowerby has never heard of him.—

I am very anxious that the cutting shd. be done quickly at once; for immediately that I have proofs of the cuts, I am ready for press.—

My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin


An entry in CD’s Account book (Down House MS) for 21 October 1861 records a payment of £10 16s. to ‘Mr Sowerby for 10 days’.
This information appears in the preface to Owen 1846. William Bagg, artist, is listed in the Post Office London directory for 1846.


Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.


G. B. Sowerby, Jr has done the drawings for Orchids woodcuts. Calls JM’s attention to the fact that a first-rate cutter must be employed.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Murray
Sent from
Source of text
National Library of Scotland (John Murray Archive) (Ms.42152 ff. 112–113)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3292,” accessed on 22 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9