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Darwin Correspondence Project

To George Brettingham Sowerby Jr   19 October [1866]1


Oct 19.

My dear Sir

I like all the drawings very much, but 2 or 3 must be corrected;2 but it will not I think cause much trouble. I must see the blocks again when corrected, & the specimens in question must be returned at the same time with my MS Instructions for the same. When corrected please to address them to—

C. Darwin Esq

care of Down Postman

Bromley Kent.

per Rail

When the blocks are cut & I have proofs, please to be sure return all my M.S instructions.

I think you have got one number of Waterhouse’s Mammalia belonging to me.3


Fig 1. The muzzle looks almost ridiculous from both nostrils being so visible & standing so high. The head is too prominent near the eyes. One hind hoof looks cleft. The front fetlocks rather too thin. Pray improve the head, & I send with the block a rather good engraving. Please observe that all four shoulder-stripes & leg-stripes are decidedly too dark. The lower end of anterior shoulder-stripe ought to be more square   see the original drawing. I think the head wd look better if it was in profile.

Fig 4. The snout is a little exaggerated & too much upturned like a proboscis.

Fig 5 The projecting bristles on right side of head much too coarse; you had better remove them altogether.

Fig. 10 This does not well show what is wanted; a little shading above the great occipital foramen of both figures wd at once tell the story. As the condyles are shewn on each side, it is necessary that a small portion of the skull, shading away indefinitely, should be given above. Please look at the specimens in the “Rabbit box”.

Fig 26 Lower jaw C. of Pigeon spec. 129. must be altered; the upper rim of the jaw is considerably too much reflexed; the very object of the wood cut is to shew the contrast in this respect between jaw C. 129 & jaw B. 116. As the jaw is seen from vertically above, the upper edge in the terminal portion of the jaw entirely hides the lower portion or margin. The basal part of the jaw is also made, as seen from vertically above, too broad; & does not contrast enough with Fig B. Please compare these jaws; they are in a labelled pill-box & to save you trouble are put in the “Rabbit box”.

Fig 33 C. Skull of Fowl   There is an important error here, against which I guarded you in my M.S. instructions & in the outline given. The error can however be corrected by erasing a small portion of the pre-maxillary bone. Pray read my instructions & look at my sketch; & compare the entire skull marked “White crested” with the skull of which a section is here given. I wished you to imagine an exactly medial section through the entire “White crested” skull; by holding this skull & the section of skull in the same position, & by looking at my outline I think you will understand the alteration which is necessary. One of the 2 points of bone shewn in your Fig. 32 A5 will project just behind or beyond the line of section. You will understand why all this is necessary, when I tell you that it is quite an anomaly in the breed of which the section of the skull is given to have the pre-maxillary bone extending up & united to the skull. I have put these 2 skulls which you will require for the correction in whity brown paper in the “Rabbit Box”

Fig 35 Is drawn upside down, but by merely altering the lettering, as I have done, all comes right.—

In the Pea pod (un numbered)6 the dark shading near the extremity ought to terminate more abruptly or be more defined. Look at the original drawing folded up with the block.—

I hope these corrections will not give you great trouble. Please observe that I must see all these corrected blocks again. I am much pleased with the whole lot & thank you sincerely

I am my dear Sir | yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin

Will it not be adviseable to let the Wood-cutter have the specimens, when he is cutting; but of this you will judge best.

Pray put him to work at once in order, I hope to have proofs to affix to my M.S. & give proper references by middle of December.—

Woodcuts No 1, 10, 26, & 33 are those which I must see again— I forgot to observe whether you have given letter of Reference in all cases in which there is more than one figure on same block— Please attend to this—

See that the Blocks are ultimately cut close for the Printed number above & Description below.—7


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to John Murray, 16 October [1866].
The reference is to illustrations made by Sowerby for Variation (see letter to John Murray, 16 October [1866] and n. 3).
Waterhouse 1846–8 was issued in twenty-two instalments, later appearing in a two-volume edition. CD’s unbound copies are in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 845–9). CD may have lent Sowerby part 12, on the Rodentia (Waterhouse 1846–8, 2: 1–48; it is the only part that has CD’s signature on the front cover). CD had annotated the plate showing the skull and lower jaw of Lepus timidus, the common hare. In Variation 1: 116–20 various features of the skull of the wild rabbit are compared to those of domestic breeds, and figures 6 to 11 illustrate this part of the text.
The figure numbers that CD gives correspond to those in the printed version of Variation except for figure 33 C, which is figure 36, the skull of horned fowl, in the printed version. Figure 1 is of the Devonshire pony; figure 4 is of the old Irish pig; figure 5 is of the half-lop rabbit; figure 10 is of the occipital foramen of rabbits; figure 26 is the skull of a runt (a pigeon); figure 35 is of longitudinal sections of skulls of fowls.
This number evidently corresponds to Sowerby’s own list; based on the description, it is figure 36 in the printed version (see Variation 1: 265).
‘Pods of the common pea’ is figure 41 in the list of illustrations (see Variation 1: viii, 328).
In the printed version, the figure number and description usually but not invariably appear below the illustration.


Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

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

Waterhouse, George Robert. 1846–8. A natural history of the Mammalia. 2 vols. London: H. Baillière.


Lists some alterations which must be made to the drawings [for Variation].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Brettingham Sowerby, Jr
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 96: 21–4
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5250,” accessed on 20 September 2021,

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