On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties

An introduction by R. B. Freeman

This famous paper originally appeared in the Journal of the Linnean Society of London, Zoology, but has been printed in books, in part or in whole, several times since. The events and correspondence, between June 18th, when Darwin received Wallace's letter, and August 30th, when it appeared in print, are given in Life and letters, Vol. II, pp. 115-131. The paper was communicated to the Society by Sir Charles Lyell and Sir Joseph Hooker, on the evening of Tuesday, July 1st, 1858. [Note 1 July 1858 was a Thursday, JvW] Darwin was not present because of serious illness amongst his children. The meeting was largely concerned with the death of Robert Brown and it aroused little interest.

There are five different forms in which the original edition can be found, but they are all from the same setting of type. Four of these are the results of the publishing customs of the Linnean Society of London and the fifth is the authors' offprints. The Journal came out in parts and was available to Fellows of the Society with Zoology and Botany together in each part, Zoology alone, or Botany alone. Later it appeared in volume form made up from reserved stock of the parts with new title pages, dated in the year of completion of the volume, and indexes. This again was available complete or as Zoology or Botany alone. The Zoology was signed with numbers and the Botany with letters. The Darwin-Wallace paper occurs in the complete part in blue wrappers, or in the Zoology part in pink wrappers; the Botany parts were in green. The Linnean Society has all the forms in its reference files, although it does not hold the offprint.

The authors' offprints were issued in buff printed wrappers with the original pagination retained. They have 'From the Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society for August 1858.' on page [45]. They were printed from the standing type but, presumably, after the copies of the number had been run off. The only copies which I have seen have been inscribed personally by Darwin, but Life and letters, Vol. II, p. 138, notes that Darwin had sent eight copies to Wallace, still in the far-east, and had kept others for him.

Life and letters, Vol. II, p. 120, states, in a footnote, that the date of Darwin's letter to Asa Gray 'is given as October in the "Linnean Journal".' This is not so; the date is given correctly in the Journal as 'September 5th, 1857'. However, in the Proceedings for 1857-58 (pp. liv-lv) it is given as 'in October 1857'.

It was not reprinted as a pamphlet in English, but occurs on several occasions in books and papers, first in 1908 in the Linnean Society's celebrations of Darwin's birth, and in 1930 in facsimile in Sarton's paper in Isis. It was translated into German in Darwin's lifetime and into Italian and Russian since his death.

Darwin & Wallace. Proceedings of the meeting of the Linnean Society held on July 1st, 1858. Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society. Zoology. Text F1699b

Lyell, Hooker, Darwin & Wallace. On the tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection. Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London. Zoology. Introduction Text Image PDF F350 German: PDF F365, PDF F366

Darwin & Wallace. Three papers on the tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection. Zoologist 16: 6293-6308. Text Image PDF F1700

[Extract from an unpublished work on species]. Gardeners' Chronicle. PDF F352a


Click here for a full bibliographical list.


From: Freeman, R. B. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d ed. Dawson: Folkstone.

NOTE: With thanks to The Charles Darwin Trust and Dr Mary Whitear for use of the Bibliographical Handlist. Copyright. All rights reserved. For private academic use only. Not for republication or reproduction in whole or in part without the prior written consent of The Charles Darwin Trust, 31 Baalbec Road, London N5 1QN.

Corrections and additions copyright John van Wyhe, The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online - National University of Singapore.


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