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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Murray   22 February [1866]1

Down Bromley | Kent.

Feb 22—

My dear Sir

I am much pleased but even more grieved about the Origin;2 for after ten months intermission I am now able to work nearly two hours daily at my next book;3 but this will be now stopped by the Origin. Natural Hist. progresses so quickly that I must make a good many corrections.4 It will save me a good deal of labour if you will make a special request to Messrs Clowes5 that the sheets are corrected with extra care, & only those sheets sent to me which contain corrections of more than a word or two. The former editions were corrected with admirable care. I will begin to work in a few days & as soon as a few sheets are ready shall I send them off to Messrs Clowes?

I must cut up my present single copy, so must request you to send (to “care of G. Snow Nag’s Head Borough”)6 a new bound copy as I must have one by me.

With respect to payment, will it suit you when half the copies are sold?7

I hope you will let me have a few presentation copies as before.8

I fear my Orchis book has been a poor affair. What state is it in?9

I enclose a cheque for your account.10

I was going to have written to you about woodcuts.11 Now Alas there is less hurry, but yet I may as well settle the affair. Ten blocks of pigeons & poultry are almost completed;12 but I require 32 or 33 of heads of animals—but chiefly of bones & skulls: there will often be 3 or 4 little bones in the same cut.13 Now I do not know that Mr G. B. Sowerby has had any experience in drawing bones, but shd rather prefer him as he is patient with me & I am familiar with his ways.14 What do you wish & advise? If Mr Sowerby is employed, how is he, or indeed any one, to be restricted about price? Whoever draws for me will have to come down here to receive instructions & take away the specimens.15

How long a time ought I to grant for these 32 woodcuts?

I am sorry to give you so much trouble with so many questions, & shall be grateful for answers & will give no more trouble.

I am very much interested in my present book on Domestic Animals &c; but cannot form the most remote idea whether the public will care for it. If it had not been for the Origin I think I shd certainly have gone to press with it early this autumn.16

I am much obliged for your kind enquiries about my health, & remain my dear Sir | yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin

P.S. I find my copy of Origin is so bescribbled,17 that I must correct on clean sheets— if you have unbound copy, so much the better.— Please send by Post.—


The year is established by the references to the fourth edition of Origin and to CD’s work on Variation.
CD refers to Murray’s plans to print a fourth edition of Origin; see letter from John Murray, 21 February [1866].
CD refers to Variation, on which he had been engaged intermittently since January 1860 (see Correspondence vols. 8–13, CD’s ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 14, Appendix II)).
CD revised the fourth more extensively than earlier editions of Origin (Peckham ed. 1959, p. 21). He worked on the revisions between 1 March and 10 May 1866 (see CD’s ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 14, Appendix II)).
William Clowes & Sons.
George Snow operated a carrier service between London and Down, calling at the Nag’s Head inn, Borough High Street, London (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1866, Freeman 1978).
Murray had paid CD on publication of the earlier editions, but had suggested deferring payment for the fourth edition until he had recouped some of the publication costs. See letter from John Murray, 21 February [1866].
Murray had allowed CD twelve copies of the first edition of Origin, eighteen of the second edition, and six of the third edition (Peckham ed. 1959, pp. 775–6).
CD had previously expressed concern about the sales of Orchids (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter to John Murray, 22 January [1863] and n. 3). For more on the publishing history of Orchids, see Freeman 1977, pp. 112–15.
CD’s Classed account books (Down House MS) contain an entry of £1.10.0 for ‘Presentation copies’, dated 21 February 1866.
CD and Murray exchanged several letters regarding woodcuts for illustrations in Variation in 1865; see Correspondence vol. 13, letters to John Murray, 31 March [1865], 4 April [1865], and 2 June [1865], and letter from John Murray, 1 April 1865.
The ten woodcuts of pigeons and poultry for Variation were being made from drawings by Luke Wells, under the supervision of William Bernhard Tegetmeier (see letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 22 January [1866] and nn. 4–7).
In the published volumes of Variation, there were forty woodcuts of animals, including twenty-five illustrating skulls and bones.
George Brettingham Sowerby Jr drew the figures for Fossil Cirripedia (1854), Living Cirripedia (1851, 1854), and Orchids (1862). CD had already asked Murray about Sowerby’s contributing drawings of bones and skulls to Variation (see Correspondence vol. 13, letter to John Murray, 31 March [1865] and n. 4).
No record of a visit to Down by Sowerby in 1866 has been found; for his earlier visits, see Correspondence vol. 13, letter to John Murray, 31 March [1865] and n. 4.
CD refers to Variation and the fourth edition of Origin; see nn. 3 and 4, above.
CD’s own annotated copies of Origin are in the Rare Books Room–CUL; they include all those published before 1866, that is the first, second, and third English editions, and the first American edition.


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

Fossil Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the fossil Balanidæ and Verrucidæ of Great Britain. By Charles Darwin. London: Palaeontographical Society. 1854.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Living Cirripedia (1851): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Lepadidæ; or, pedunculated cirripedes. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1851.

Living Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Balanidæ (or sessile cirripedes); the Verrucidæ, etc. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1854.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Post Office directory of the six home counties: Post Office directory of the six home counties, viz., Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. London: W. Kelly & Co. 1845–78.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


CD is pleased [about need for a new edition of Origin] but even more grieved – for it will delay his next book [Variation]. Progress of natural history will make many changes necessary in Origin. Nevertheless, proceeds with 32 more woodcuts for Variation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Murray
Sent from
Source of text
National Library of Scotland (John Murray Archive) (Ms.42152 ff. 139–142)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5016,” accessed on 23 January 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14