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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Murray   4 September [1870]1

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

Sept 4th

My dear Sir

Some members of my family have remarked that the old Origin of Species has a very poor appearance compared with my Domestic Animals; & I think this is due to the quality of the paper; so that I hope you will attend to this point for present work. The smooth Binding of Dom: Animals, also, looks much better than Origin.—2 The Printers have sent me splendid lot of proofs.—3

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from John Murray, 6 August [1870].
The first five editions of Origin were bound in textured cloth, whereas Variation had smooth covers (see R. B. Freeman 1977, p. 123) and was printed on heavier paper. The sixth edition of Origin (published in 1872) differed from previous editions in its printing and binding (see R. B. Freeman 1977, p. 79). Descent was bound in smooth covers and printed on heavier paper, like Variation.
CD refers to the proofs of Descent and to the printing firm William Clowes & Sons.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

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.

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.

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


Variation is a much better looking volume than Origin due to quality of paper and binding. Hopes JM will attend to this point in Descent. Printers have sent "splendid lot" of proofs.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Murray
Sent from
Source of text
National Library of Scotland (John Murray Archive) (Ms.42152 f. 211)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7316,” accessed on 2 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18