Charles Darwin letter achieves $144K at RR

Handwritten 1860 letter in which Charles Darwin discussed the success of On the Origin of Species, $144,020

Handwritten 1860 letter in which Charles Darwin discussed the success of On the Origin of Species, $144,020

BOSTON – A Charles Darwin letter that discussed the success of his book On the Origin of Species sold for $144,020 at RR Auction.

The two-page handwritten letter, signed “C. Darwin” and dated January 29, [1860] is addressed to his former teacher, John Stevens Henslow, and reads in part, “The measles has gone like wild-fire through the house, but we are now quit of it. We shall be delighted to see you here, whenever you can spare the time … I shall be particularly glad to hear any of your objections to my views, when we meet. My Book has been far more successful as yet, than I dreamed of — The two last chapters are in my opinion the strongest.”

Henslow was a friend and mentor to Charles Darwin, credited with inspiring his passion for natural history. Upon the book’s publication on November 24, 1859, Darwin had his publisher, John Murray, forward a copy to Henslow. At that time, Darwin wrote to Henslow, “I fear … that you will not approve of your pupil in this case,” but requested his thoughts on the work. Henslow indeed had reservations about Darwin’s evolutionary ideas but respected the immediate and influential impact of On the Origin of Species. In a May 1860 letter to Joseph Dalton Hooker, Henslow admitted: “I do not disguise my own opinion that Darwin has pressed his hypothesis too far — but at the same time I assert my belief that his Book is (as Owen described it to me) the ‘Book of the Day.'”

Though much of the correspondence between Darwin and Henslow has been cataloged by the Darwin Correspondence Project, this letter appears to be unpublished.

“It’s a remarkable autograph letter by Darwin alluding to the great success of his most important work,” said Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction. ‘

The Fine Autographs and Artifacts featuring Science and Technology from RR Auction began November 19 and concluded December 8. For more information, go to


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