Immersed in his studies of fossil Cirripedia

Darwin, Charles, English naturalist (1809-1882). Autograph letter signed.

Down Farnborough Kent, 8. [VIII. 1850].

8vo. 4 pp. on bifolium.


An important letter which underscores Darwin's belief in the scientific significance of the study of Cirripedia (barnacles). To Nathaniel Thomas Wetherell: "I fear that you will think me a sad trespasser on your kindness & forbearance, when I tell you that I have not actually completed my description of Loricula; but I shall do it directly & write now to obtain your permission to take (myself) your specimen to Mr. James De C. Sowerby to [be] drawn for publication by the Palæontographical Society.- I have received Mr [John Wickham] Flower's specimens, & some from Denmark but none are related to the Loricula, which is as perplexing as ever to me.- Immediately that Mr Sowerby has with your permission figured the Loricula (& I shall take it up in a fortnight) it shall be returned to you.

Is there any safe place where I could leave it in London for you, or shall I return it by a messenger? - I believe I did once before ask you, whether you have any other fossil Cirripedia.

To save you the trouble of answering, I will assume, without I hear to the contrary that Mr Sowerby may figure it.

With my best thanks | I remain dear Sir | Yours faithfully | C. Darwin | I assure you that it has not been idleness which has delayed me, but numbers of specimens of other fossil Cirri[pe]des".

We are able to date this letter precisely because August 1850 was the only month with a 'Thursday 8th' in the period between the Palaeontographical Society's decision to publish Fossil Cirripedia and the publication of the first volume of this work in 1851, in which Loricula pulchella is described (Fossil Cirripedia (1851): 81-6).

James de Carle Sowerby drew all the figures of the specimens in the first volume of Fossil Cirripedia. At the time of writing, Darwin does not seem to have known that George Brettingham Sowerby Jr had described and figured this particular specimen in 1843. However, since that time Wetherell had cleared away more material from the specimen, revealing features not seen by G.B. Sowerby Jr, and a new drawing was made for Darwin's description (Fossil Cirripedia (1851): 81). (Darwin Correspondence Project).

Published by the Darwin Correspondence Project, University of Cambridge, as Letter no. DCP-LETT-1267.

Slight damage to paper (no loss to text) and in some parts professionally restored.

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