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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Hinrich Nitsche   25 April [1871]1

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

Ap 25th.

Dear Sir

I am greatly indebted to you for your pleasant letter & for your great kindness in sending me the photographs, which I have been very glad to see.2 I do not know whether they are quite distinct enough for engraving on wood, but think so; & when a new edition is required will show them to a wood-engraver.3 Any how I will give the case as coming from “a foreign naturalist”. The ears of the embryonic orang strike me as extremely curious: they seem wonderfully different, as far as my memory serves, from those of the adult animal; & I think it will be worth while to give an engraving of them.4 I enclose my own photograph as the only, though very poor, return which I can make for your two photographs.

When next you see Mr. Lankester will you give him my particular thanks for his interesting letter of April 17th., which will be very useful to me, & for his betrayal of you as a case of atavism.5 I am glad to hear from Mr. Lankester of the young chimpanzee in Hamburgh with the points to the ears.6

Pray believe me, | yours truly obliged | Charles Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Hinrich Nitsche, 18 April 1871.
Nitsche had sent CD pictures of his ears as examples of the ‘Woolnerian tip’ discussed in Descent 1: 22; see letter from Hinrich Nitsche, 18 April 1871. CD did not publish the pictures of Nitsche’s ears.
CD refers to Edwin Ray Lankester and the letter from E. R. Lankester, 17 April [1871].


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


Thanks HN for photographs of his ears and one showing the form of the ears in a foetal orang. He will show them to a wood-engraver when a new edition of Descent is called for [see Descent, 2d ed., p. 17].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Hinrich Nitsche
Sent from
Source of text
Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig, Sondersammlungen (Sammlung Liebeskind/XI/29)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7714,” accessed on 18 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19