2 pages, 8vo." />
17 June 2008
DARWIN, Charles (1809-1882). Autograph letter signed ("C. Darwin"), to Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875), Ilkley Wells House, Orley, Yorkshire, n.d. . 2 pages, 8vo.
DARWIN, "MAKING GOOD PROGRESS" CORRECTING HIS SECOND EDITION OF 'ORIGIN OF SPECIES, ASKS FOR SOME RESEARCH HELP from famed geologist, Sir Charles Lyell: "After all your trouble I am truly ashamed to give you more. But I have not a Book here. Will you tell me from Principles how many kinds of footprints of supposed Birds feet have been found in the N. American sandstone. My memory says 37 or 39 but this must be a mistake. I can make good sentences leading to those suggested by you about Birds bones, in place of fossil Whale... I am making great progress on sheets for 2d Edit [of Origin of Species], correcting slightly but not adding from want of my fuller M.S."
The fruit of this query appears in the text of the second edition of Origin as: "...Had it not been for the rare accident of the preservation of footsteps in the new red sandstone of the United States, who would have ventured to suppose that, besides reptiles, no less than at least thirty kinds of birds, some of gigantic size existed during [the eocene age]?..." Lyell and his pathbreaking geological study were crucial in shaping the course of Darwin's thought. "Using...Lyell's radical new Principles of Geology (1830-33) as a guide, he grew bold in interpreting the earth's crust by causes now in operation. (The first volume was a gift from FitzRoy, the other two reached him during the voyage.) He was captivated by Lyell's grand theoretical scheme--'when seeing a thing never seen by Lyell, one yet saw it partially through his eyes' (Correspondence, 3:55)--and confirmed many of Lyell's observations with careful fieldwork... He endorsed Lyell's belief in an earth gradually shaped over countless ages: time enough--as he later grasped--for evolution by natural selection to occur" (DNB).
Darwin stayed at Ilkley House to take the waters from October to December 1859, and this letter was almost certainly written during that stay. Darwin letters to this important scientific colleague are comparatively rare.
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