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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. V. Carus   11 February 1867

39, Elstertrasse, Leipzig.

Febry 11. 1867

My dear Sir,

I hereby send you the preface (very hastily translated) which I intend to give to the new edition of the translation.1 I prefer to give this instead of any other additions or notes partly from the reasons given in the very preface, partly because I don’t think the book itself the right place for any lengthy discussion.2 You would oblige me very much indeed, if you were to give me your opinion quite frankly. As I didn’t as yet send it to Stuttgart and the print of the text has scarcely begun (I saw the corrections of the three first sheets) it is plenty of time to make any alterations you should think fair or proper.3

The chief part of the work, the revision and correction of the book is done; now it depends on Schweizerbart to bring it out quickly. I am sorry he will bring it out in parts.4 But as this is a matter of business I cannot meddle with it.

Could you give me perhaps a direction where I could get a specimen of the Eozoon?5

Believe me | My dear Sir | yours very sincerely, | J. Victor Carus


Preface of the editor.

When I was asked to lead a new edition of the translation of Darwin’s book on the origin of species through the press I had first to complain that Bronn couldn’t do it himself any more. Now it was not only the piety owing to the dead which made it a duty for me to revise Bronn’s work, it was especially the conscience of deep obligation under which German Science stands to the late Bronn and which could not but be augmented by his introduction of the book on the origin of species to the public at large, that I welcomed the opportunity of continuing a task begun by him   My first aim could only be, to correct the errors and mistakes left unnoticed here and there, and above all to insert the many important additions of the author, which are to be found in the new english edition, into this German. Of these I may mention the detailed accounts of dimorphic and trimorphic plants and animals, of mimetic butterflies, of hybridism and the sterility and fertility of hybrids and first crosses, of means of transport and so on

A singular difficulty arose to me from the publisher’s wish to put my name on the title. As I acknowledge the great merits of Bronn’s heartily and without any reserve, yet here only his relation to the contents of the book edited by him could lead me. His position to Darwin’s theory is quite different of mine. Bronn declares in his concluding remarks, which he even joins to the text of the work as a 15. chapter, that “he was not able, to follow the doctrine” (put down in the preceding fourteen chapters) and that he thinks it “more consistant, to” insist upon the old point of view (viz. the admission of wonders), though it is not to be maintained scientifically.”

So also his foot-notes are mostly debating. Now, the more I should think it unfair to fight against Bronn’s opposing notes by polemising additions (which I shouldn’t have done even without giving my name) the less it seems to me advisable, to append explanations or notes betraying doubt to a work equally excellent in its richness of details as in the acuteness of its combinations, and this the less as the development of the science of organic nature within the last ten’s of years tends always more pressingly to a view which now Darwin has brought into such masterly form   Therefore in accordance with the author I decided, to leave out Bronn’s additions. I have also resisted the temptation to append notes of my own, though I might have been led to do it, for instance with regard to the value of zoological characters, to the causes of the variability, but especially with regard to the methodological necessity of the admission of the spontaneous generation I give therefore Darwin’s book so as it is in its fourth english edition published towards the close of the past year with some corrections sent me by the author. For those and for many lights on moot or doubtful points I feel myself most obliged to him.


CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Eozoon’ pencil


For the published preface (‘Vorrede des Herausgebers’), see Bronn and Carus trans. 1867, pp. v–vi.
See enclosure. The first two German translations of Origin included notes and an extra chapter (chapter 15) by Heinrich Georg Bronn (Bronn trans. 1860 and 1863).
In the letter from E. Schweizerbart’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung (the publishing firm in Stuttgart) of 24 January 1867, Christian Friedrich Schweizerbart informed CD that he had sent the first part of Carus’s manuscript to the printer.
On the publisher, see n. 3, above. Bronn and Carus trans. 1867 was not published in parts.
In 1864, John William Dawson identified samples taken from pre-Silurian strata in eastern Canada as fossilised Foraminifera, single-celled protists with shells; he named the species Eozoon canadense, the ‘Dawn animal from Canada’ (Dawson 1864). Further samples were sent to William Benjamin Carpenter, an expert on Foraminifera, who confirmed Dawson’s interpretation (Carpenter 1864). CD added information on the discovery of Eozoon canadense to Origin 4th ed., p. 371, as substantiating his claim, made in Origin, p. 307, that life existed before the Silurian period (see Correspondence vol. 13, letter to Charles Lyell, 25 March [1865], n. 11, and Burkhardt 1988, pp. 43–5). See also Correspondence vol. 14, letter to J. D. Hooker, 31 May [1866]. The interpretation of the samples as pre-Silurian fossils remained controversial, however (see, for example, Carpenter 1866, and King and Rowney 1866); and by the end of the century, comparisons with similar, more recent, formations indicated that the samples were mineral in origin (see Schopf 2000).


Burkhardt, Frederick H. 1988. England and Scotland: the learned societies. In The comparative reception of Darwinism, edited by T. F. Glick. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Carpenter, William Benjamin. 1866. Supplemental notes on the structure and affinities of Eozoon Canadense. [Read 10 January 1866.] Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 22: 219–28.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Dawson, John William. 1864. On the structure of certain organic remains in the Laurentian limestones of Canada. [Read 23 November 1864.] Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 21 (1865): 51–9.

Origin 4th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 4th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1866.

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.

Schopf, J. William. 2000. Solution to Darwin’s dilemma: discovery of the missing Precambrian record of life. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 97: 6947–53.


Sends CD an English translation of his preface to the revised German edition of Origin and asks his opinion of it.

Asks CD where he might get a specimen of Eozoon.

Letter details

Letter no.
Julius Victor Carus
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 161: 55, 57
Physical description
ALS 2pp, encl 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5397,” accessed on 16 August 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15