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Monday, August 27, 2018

Who wants "A Sad Case: Owen vs Huxley" pamphlet and a possible Darwin letter?

A friend has a neighbor who's in possession of a pamphlet from 1863 on the Owen vs Huxley debate. The text of the pamphlet is here: A Report of A SAD CASE, Recently tried before the Lord Mayor, OWEN versus HUXLEY, In which will be found fully given the Merits of the great Recent BONE CASE. A photocopy of the pamphlet is shown below along with a possible letter from Charles Darwin (I have not authenticated the letter).

The owners are willing to donate the material to a worthy cause, preferably a museum if it's valuable. Does anyone know of a worthy home?


  1. Cambridge UK is the obvious place, to get the pamphlet scanned and (Darwin) online, and the letter transcribed and added to the correspondence project. Your AMNH is the alternative with a repository of their own.

    1. I think the Natural History Museum in London is the obvious place to donate the material.

    2. Dear Dr Moran, I am Christine (Angela), editor for Darwin Online. Would you consider sending us the scan to be added to our website. We have made 2 entries for this case and it would be great if we can have the pdf.
      I have transcribed several of Darwin's abstracts, letters etc and that is most definitely his handwriting. DCP's record: DCP-LETT-2093F

      Anon. 1863. A report of a sad case, recently tried before the Lord Mayor, Owen versus Huxley, in which will be found fully given the merits of the great recent bone case. [source unidentified]. April 23: 8pp.

      Anon. 1863. Owen vs. Huxley: the Bone Case. The Times. April.

      Thank you. My email is or Dr John van Wyhe's:

  2. I had to look up who the "Natal" referred to was; seems likely to be John Colenso, the bishop of Natal, though I didn't find if Colenso and Huxley were ever directly associated. The Colenso family seems to have had a line in controversial clergymen, though: John Colenso was the cousin of New Zealand's William Colenso.

  3. That was a funny piece. not inferior to our own times.
    it was pro Huxely but so what.
    it makes a point of how many people were unduly persuaded of evolution based on merely comparing human/ape anatomy.
    It was not actual evidence of common descent but a visual conclusion that like equals like origin.
    Yet since the original conclusion was of God creating Adam then it would also follow man would have to look like a animal since he could not have a unique body to suggest his unique creation.
    Mans identity is in the soul and this in the image of God.
    God can not have a biology frame in a world where biology follows laws of anatomical purpose.
    So man , uniquely, is the only being who rents another creatures bodyplan.
    The best one for fun and profit.
    Its only a line of reasoning that ape likeness is evidence of a common descent.
    its also a line of reasoning to predict mankind would look like a creature with the best bodyplan for our use.
    Ape/man likeness is not evidence of relationship.
    Not evidence but only reasoning from presumptions.
    A logical error pushed forward a idea claiming the error as biological evidence.
    A lack of faith and imagination.

    1. But you must admit, Byers, the comparative anatomy is not atomic and unproven.

  4. The text of the 1863 pamphlet is also transcribed at a Huxley archive here:

  5. The Darwin letter looks real, but is only the front page. I can almost read it. There are ghosts of a continued page, backwards in the scan. Is that the text on the second page showing through?

    The people at the Darwin Correspondence Project at Cambridge University in UK would probably be interested in a high-resolution scan of both sides of all pages of it.

  6. Woops, I see the link to the text of the pamphlet at Clark University was already in the article.

  7. My reading of the letter, which is lightly labeled "Darwin letter" on its front:

    Down Bromley Kent
    May 22[d?]

    Dear Sharpey

    I am most entirely of Huxley's
    opinion that A. Hancock's
    claims are of a very high order
    [, and?] I think
    he has done amply enough even
    without the paper lately sent
    to the Society. Supposing
    that [a?] Botanist is brought
    forward with strong claims
    I think it deserves [a......?]
    the Geologist has [h......?]

    (breaks off there, presumbly
    to the other side of the sheet
    from which we see ghosts in
    this scan).

    Does anyone have alternative readings for
    these words?

  8. This letter is from 1858, a year before the publication of The Origin of Species. Darwin, Huxley, and other friends were trying to lobby for a biologist, one that they respected, to receive a Royal Medal from the Royal Society. In those days the Royal Medals went more often to physicists and astronomers. At the Darwin Correspondence website there are other letters that are part of this effort.

    There are other letters about this effort. But this one is Darwin's actual letter to the Royal Society (William Sharpey, a friend of Darwin's, was the Secretary of the Royal Society) urging the appointment of Albany Hancock. And in fact Hancock was awarded one of the 1858 Royal Medals. So this is an important letter of Darwin's. It does not seem to be one of the letters available on the Darwin Correspondence Project website.

    So yes, it's an important letter. The owner should send scans of all sides of all pages to the Darwin Correspondence Project.

  9. Larry, cleanup on aisle 1, the last two comments (spam) plus this one.

  10. Does this pamphlet has a home now? Here in Brazil we've just lost most of the collections of the National Museum(Museu Nacional/UFRJ). Maybe... you know. You can contact Alexander Kellner, the director of the Museum.