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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Hermanus Hartogh Heijs van Zouteveen   2 March 1871


2 March 1871

Dear Sir!

My publisher will send 2 copies of my Translation; one to you and the other (marked as sent f. you) to Mr. Hegt of the Zool. gardens at Amsterdam.1 We publish the translation in “livraisons”,2 as the French call it (I don’t know the Engl. word), each of 48 pages. The first “livraison” is already published and 15 March the second follows

I am greatly obliged for the benevolent manner, on which you express yourself with relation to my memoir;3 the essential points of it (the elephants heads in Mexico) will be published in French in the “Archiv für Anthropologie und Urgeschichte” von Ecker und Lindenschmit, by the redaction of which it was accepted in the beginning of the year 1870;4 would certainly have been published already, without this unfortunate war between France and Germany!5

I can not find back the place in your book, where the word larynx is written larnyx. It is now also to late for errata, the book being published.6

I believe, you don’t know Hyrtl’s “Handboek der top. Anatomie” (Dutch translation of Dr. Hanlo).7 I have found in that book several cases of anomalies in human structure, who certainly will interest you.

So I read there Vol. II p. 131.:

“Ricard (‘Journal hebdomadaire’, 1833, tom. XIII)8 observed a women, 22 years old, whose rectum opened itself and discharged in the vagina”. A curious case of reversion, a cloaca being thus formed! The most curious is, that her husband after a marriage of three years had not discovered any anomaly in his wife!

Vol. II. p. 147. Female sexual parts. “In recently born childs the frenulum often wants, and both labia pudendi majora s. externa passes in the correspondent “fesses” (French word, don’t know the English.), a structure who is permanent during the entire life by Hottentot women, as is proved by a prepared specimen in the museum of Breslau”.9

This seems to me another curious case of reversion.

Vol. II, p. 209, note 2:

“Under the fishes, true hermaphroditism occurs in the normal state in Serranus scriba, cabrilla et hepatus,10 of the Mediterranean sea. Exceptionally it is observed in Cyprinus carpio, Gadus morrhua, perca fluviablis, melanurus, accipenser sturio, Esox lucius and Gadus merlangus11   These two kinds of hermaphroditism differ in the following points:

a. The normal is symmetric and bilateral; the milt developping itself between the corners of the spawn, and each half of the primitive double germinal gland producing both organs (milt and spawn).

b. The abnormal is asymmetric and at most unilateral; milt and spawn forming seperate bodies, and the both halves of the primitive double germinal gland never producing milt and spawn at the same time.”

“With more extension this point is treated by Prof. H. J. Halbertsma in “Verslagen en Mededeelingen der Kon. Ak. v. Wiss” (Transact. of the Dutch royal Acad. of Science.) (vol. XVI).”12

I can therefore not believe, that Dr. Günther is in the right, when he is convinced, that in Serranus hermaphroditism is not the normal state (Desc. of man, Vol. 1 p. 208, note 25).13

Vol. II page 413 I read that, though normal fingers don’t regrow after amputation several cases are known, in which new nails or rather rudiments of nails, horny shields, were formed at the end of the stumps   Blumenbach observed this in a French soldier, who at the passage of the Berezina had lost two fingers.14 Diday observed the same in a sutler, who had lost four fingers by congealing.15 Many similar cases are given in Pauli, “de vulnerum sanatione”.16

Vol. I. p. 529 I read that not only cases of mammae erraticae in the arm-pit and on the back are known, but that a woman is observed who had a mamma erratica on the thigh (femur), which gave so much milk, that she nourrished with it her child during three years!17

Vol. II. p. 626 is recorded a very curious case of polydactylism, namely of an individual having 24 toes and 24 fingers!

Vol. II. p. 416 several other curious cases of polydactylism and of its strong tendency to be hereditary transmitted are given.— “Without the mediaeval family of the Bellfingers, whose name was derived from their difformity, also a new case belongs to it. Zerah Colburn, the celebrated calculator by heart had on the external margin of each hand a sixth finger, and in the same manner at each foot a sixth toe. His father possessed the same anomaly; from his seven sisters four are normally formed, two ressemble the father, and one has six fingers at each hand, but only at one foot six toes. The grand-mother had brought this particularity in the family, having herited it from her mother, whose eleven children all possessed this difformity. (Meckel’s Deutsches Archiv. 4 Bd, p. 32)18 Bronn relates in his “Handbuch der Geschichte der Natur”, Stuttgart 1843, Bd II, p. 182) the case of a Spaniard with 6 fingers, whose children all had 6 fingers, excepted the last, whom he obstinately refused to acknowledge as his child because it had only 5 fingers.19 Ruijsch describes in his Observ. anat. chir. under the name of sceletum polydactylum a skeleton, that possessed at the right hand seven, at the left six fingers, at the same time double thumbs, at the right foot 8, at the left 9 toes.20 The oldest case is to be found in the old testament 2 Samuel XXI: V20. The poet Volcatius Sedigitus21 and Anna Boulein22 had six fingers at the right hand”

(The latter had also mammae erraticae, and yet was the most beautiful woman of her time as they say!).

Vol. #I, p. 530, 531 several cases of men producing milk are given. Mme. Clemence Royer in her Work Origines de l’homme et des Sociétés Paris 1870 has already suggested, that in the early progenitors of the primates both sexes would have nourrished the young with their milk.—23

In Rotterdam I know a doctor medicinae, called De Haas who has a defect of the eye (hypermetropsy?) in so marked a manner, that he says, that nobody in Europe has it so strongly, that was also the reason that he became oculist.24 All the members of his family and also his ascendants (for instance the father of his grand-father) possessed the same defect. Dr. de Haas is protestant, of his religion, as were all his ascendents as far as he knows.

Now in Rotterdam there is a family de Haas of the Roman Catholic religion. Though they have the same name, it is not known, if they are related with the protestant family. If this is, it must be by an extremely remoted common progenitor (two centuries ago for instance). “I am however sure that these Roman Catholics are of my family”, said Dr De Haas to me. “Why”, I asked. “Because they all suffer from hypermetropsy at their eyes,” he answered.

When the Suez channel was opened I made a Voyage to Egypt and ascended the Nile as far as Philae (above the cataracts).25 I assure you that at several monuments (for instance the tombs of Beni Hassan (3000 bef. Christ)) the salle hypostyle at Karnak, the temple of Medinet Abun26 etc. I saw pictures representing Semites, negroes, Assyrians etc, who could very wel be recognised. In the note page 217, vol. 1 of your book you could also quote the very interesting representations of Jews found at Nineveh.27 When I first arrived in Egypt I immediately saw between the Arabians differences as great as between Dutchmen (p. 215, vol 1 of your book), at the penins. and orient.28 hotel at Suez   I very well could distinguish the various Hindoo servants from each other and the members of the Japanese embassy, who some years ago came in Europe and also in Holland seemed to me very dissimilar.

I am very glad, that my translation has given me the occasion to enter in correspondance with you. I hope this letter will not be the last, changed between us. Because in the clean sheets sent to me there is much written, and I cannot put them therefore in my library, you would greatly oblige me, wenn you would make me a present of a new exemplar of your book, as it is in commense, and would write in the beginning of that exemplar that you have given it to me. It is previously this last point, that would greatly enjoy me

You say you employ the word phylum at the example of Haeckel.29 By Haeckel however phylum is not identic with lines of descent. phylum is the whole, formed by the union of all the animals descending from a common progenitor, if I don’t err. lines of descent = pedigree, phylum = stem, trunk, tribe. It is however not impossible, that I err in this supposition.

As to the elephants of Mexico, I myself in my memoir made the suggestion that they represent mastadons or extinct species, like the mammouth found in France.

Believe me | dear sir | Yours very faithfully | Dr H. Hartogh Heys van Zouteveen

P.S. Excuse my very barbarous English   I hope you will understand the meaning of my translated quotations from Hyrtl, and what I say from Dr. de Haas. It is very difficult for a Dutchman to translate from his own language into English

CD annotations

1.1 My … reversion. 8.1] crossed pencil
1.1 2] underl blue crayon; cross in margin blue crayon
9.1 Vol.... given.— 18.2] crossed blue crayon
15.2 in which … sanatione”. 15.6] scored pencil; ‘Used’ blue crayon, ringed blue crayon
17.1 Vol.... fingers! 17.2] scored pencil
18.2 “Without … six fingers, 18.15] crossed pencil; ‘Polydactylous’ pencil, at top of page
20.3 the early … milk.— 20.4] scored blue crayon
21.1 In … strongly, 21.3] scored blue crayon
21.1 In … answered. 22.6] enclosed in square brackets blue crayon
23.4 I saw … Nineveh. 23.7] scored blue crayon
24.1 I am … enjoy me 24.7] crossed ink
24.4 wenn … book, 24.5] cross in margin blue crayon
25.1 You say … descent. 25.2] scored blue crayon
Top of letter: ‘Some facts for Descent | mostly for Variation under | Domestication’ pencil
Top of third page: ‘Make Index’ blue crayon


Hartogh Heijs van Zouteveen refers to the Dutch translation of Descent (Hartogh Heijs van Zouteveen trans. 1871–2) and to J. Noordhoek Hegt. For more on the Dutch translation, see Correspondence vol. 18, letter from Hermanus Hartogh Heijs van Zouteveen, 27 November 1870.
Livraison: instalment (French).
See letter to Hermanus Hartogh Heijs van Zouteveen, 21 February 1871 and n. 2. Hartogh Heijs van Zouteveen sent CD a copy of his memoir, ‘De voorhistorische mensch in Amerika’ (Hartogh Heijs van Zouteveen 1870b).
Hartogh Heijs van Zouteveen described ruins in Yucatan, Mexico, with images of elephant heads (Hartogh Heijs van Zouteveen 1870b, p. 242). Hartogh Heijs van Zouteveen’s memoir did not appear in Archiv für Anthropologie. Alexander Ecker and Ludwig Lindenschmit were co-founders of Archiv für Anthropologie (Hoßfeld 2005, p. 168).
The Franco-Prussian war began on 19 July 1870 (Wawro 2003, p. 65).
The references are to Joseph Hyrtl, Hyrtl 1847, and Hyrtl 1865; Hyrtl 1847 was translated into Dutch by E. Hanlo. Hanlo has not been further identified.
See Journal Universel et Hebdomadaire de Médecine et de Chirurgie Pratiques et des Institutions Médicales 13 (1833): 167–8. Ricard has not been identified.
Frenulum: a small fold of tissue that limits the movements of an organ or part (Dorland’s medical dictionary). Fesses: buttocks (French). The people of south-western Africa once called ‘Hottentots’ by Europeans are now usually referred to as Khoikhoi.
Serranus scriba is the painted comber. Fish of this genus are simultaneous hermaphrodites, that is, both male and female gonads are present in one individual at the same time (see Zorica et al. 2005). Serranus cabrilla is the comber; S. hepatus is the brown comber.
Cyprinus carpio, the common carp, is usually dioecious but both sexes are susceptible to environmentally induced sex reversal (see Pandian and Sheela 1995). Gadus morrhua is the Atlantic cod; G. merlangus is now Merlangius merlangus, the whiting. Perca fluviatilis is the European perch; Accipenser sturio is the sturgeon; Esox lucius is the northern pike. All these species are usually dioecious. There is no Perca melanurus or genus Melanurus, but the reference may be to Sparus melanurus, which is now Oblada melanura, the saddled seabream. It is a sequential hermaphrodite; that is, individuals can change sex at some time during their life, in this species, from female to male. Juveniles possess intersexual gonads. (Buxton and Garratt 1990.)
Hidde Justusz Halbertsma referred to a report on a specimen of Melanurus that was found to have intersexual gonads, but noted that he did not know to what fish the name referred (Halbertsma 1864, p. 175; see n. 11, above).
The reference is to Albert Günther and Descent. In Descent 2d ed., 1: 161 n. 28, CD altered the note and cited Halbertsma 1864, mentioning that he had received the reference from Hartogh Heijs van Zouteveen.
The references are to Johann Friedrich Blumenbach and to the battle of Berezina, fought in November 1812 between the armies of France and Russia during the Napoleonic wars (EB).
CD refers to Paul Diday. Sutler: a garrison provisioner. Congeal: freeze.
The reference is to Friedrich Pauli and Pauli 1825.
See Descent 1: 125 n. 38 for CD’s theory on ‘mammae erraticae’ (supernumerary breasts).
Johann Friedrich Meckel was the editor of Deutsches Archiv für die Physiologie from 1815 (see ibid. 4 (1818): 32–3).
The reference is to Heinrich Georg Bronn and Bronn 1841–9, 2: 182.
The reference is to Frederik Ruysch and Ruysch 1691.
Volcacius Sedigitus.
Anne Boleyn.
The reference is to Clémence Auguste Royer and Royer 1870.
Jacob Hendrik de Haas’s eye condition was evidently hypermetropia (long-sightedness).
The Suez Canal opened in 1869 (EB). Philae was an island in the Nile river where many temples from late Egyptian and classical times were found; it was submerged in 1960 following the opening of the Aswan High Dam (Columbia gazetteer of the world).
The reference is to Medinet Habu, a temple near Luxor.
In Descent 1: 217 n. 5, CD commented on the lack of unanimity in racial identification of figures in ancient statues and reliefs. Hartogh Heijs van Zouteveen also refers to images found in the ruins of Nineveh depicting the destruction of the Judean city of Lachish by the Assyrians (see Layard 1849a).
Peninsula & Orient Steam Navigation Company (P & O).


Columbia gazetteer of the world: The Columbia gazetteer of the world. Edited by Saul B. Cohen. 3 vols. New York: Columbia University Press. 1998.

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

Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.

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

Dorland’s medical dictionary: Dorland’s illustrated medical dictionary. By William Alexander Newman Dorland. 30th edition. Philadelphia, Pa.: W. B. Saunders. 2003.

EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.

Halbertsma, Hidde Justusz. 1864. Normaal en abnormaal hermaphroditismus bij de visschen. Verslagen en Mededeelingen der Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen (Afdeeling Naturkunde) 16: 165–78.

Hoßfeld, Uwe. 2005. Geschichte der biologischen Anthropologie in Deutschland: von den Anfängen bis in die Nachkriegszeit. Stuttgart: F. Steiner.

Hyrtl, Joseph. 1847.Handbuch der topographischen Anatomie und ihrer praktische medicinisch-chirurgischen Anwendungen. 2 vols. Vienna: Wallishausser.

Hyrtl, Joseph. 1865. Handboek der topographische ontleedkunde en harer toepassing op praktische genees- en heelkunde. 2d edition. Translated from German by E. Hanlo. 2 vols. Schiedam: Roelants.

Pauli, Friedrich. 1825. Commentatio physiologico-chirurgica de vulneribus sanandis. Göttingen: Dieterich.

Royer, Clémence Auguste. 1870. Origine de l’homme et des sociétés. Paris: Guillaumin et cie; Victor Masson et fils.

Ruysch, Frederik. 1691. Observationum anatomico-chirurgicarum centuria. Amsterdam: Henricum & Viduam Theodori Boom.

Wawro, Geoffrey. 2003. The Franco-Prussian war: the German conquest of France in 1870–1871. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Dutch translation [of Descent].

Notes about reversion.

Hermaphroditism in fishes.


Letter details

Letter no.
Hermanus Hartogh Heijs van Zouteveen
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 90: 21–5
Physical description
10pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7533,” accessed on 2 August 2021,

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