4 years ago

the orchids have been a splendid sport - American Journal of Botany

the orchids have been a splendid sport - American Journal of Botany

December 2009] Yam et

December 2009] Yam et al. — Darwin and his orchids 2133 difficult for general public. In short, I know not in the least, whether the Book will sell. If it prove a dead failure, I shall hold myself to a large extent responsible for having tempted you to publish with your eyes shut. — Perhaps there may be enough enthusiasts to prevent a dead failure. ” Completion of the manuscript did not bring an end to Darwin ’ s fretting. When Murray printed 1500 copies, he wrote to him, “ You are a bold man to print 1500 copies, & I hope to Heaven you will not repent it ” ( Darwin, 1862b ). There seems to have been no end for his concerns and of what can even be described as meddling: My dear Sir I returned this morning to the Printers last page of Index. This last page is 365 so that the Book will not be quite so big as we feared [Darwin initially thought that the book would have 135 pages “ at most ” ]. I hope you will reconsider the price: 10s seems to me high [the book was eventually priced at 9s]. About lettering the back of volume; I can think only of “ Fertilisation of Orchids: Darwin, ” ; but this, I fear is too long [the wording on the spine is: Fertilisation (line 1) Of (line 2) Orchids (line 3) Darwin (line 4)]. Please let me hear on this head. I have got rather to think that Red Cloth would look too gaudy for a grave volume [the binding was plum-colored cloth]. You will, of course, settle what Reviewers to send to; but I may mention that the Editor of London Review would be inclined to be favorable. Also the Editors of the old “ Cottage Gardener ” , now called “ Journal of Horticulture ” are very civil to me, & I have contributed little articles for them; so that if the[y] keep any Reviewers, they would wish to review me favourably, & this Journal has very large circulation among men who cultivate Orchids. Lastly, will you be so very kind as to distribute by Post & otherwise the long enclosed list (which please keep safely): I fear the copies for Foreigners will cause you some trouble; but I beg you kindly to do the best for me. — I hope you will give me a few copies, as heretofore. — God knows whether my little book will succeed at all, but I am frightened when I think what a large Edition is published. My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin ( Darwin, 1862e ) The book ( Fig. 1A – B ) was published on 15 May 1862 ( Darwin, 1862f, i ). Murray printed 1500 copies ( Darwin, 1862c ). By then Darwin was ready to “ repent of the nine months spent on Orchids ” and was “ fearfully sick ofthem ( Darwin, 1862b ). He thought that the book was not “ worth . . . the 10 months it cost ” him ( Darwin, 1862g ) and even wrote his son William Erasmus Darwin (1839– 1914) on 26 April 1862, “ To day, thank Heavens, I finished my accursed little orchid-Book ” ( Darwin, 1862d ). Earlier, in a letter to Charles Lyell, he wrote that it was a mistake to not keep to his “ first intention of sending it to [the] Linnean Society ( Darwin, 1861r ). TVC sold well for a short period — 768 copies by 24 August 1862 ( Darwin, 1862h ), but sales slowed after that. In 1866 there were still 600 unsold copies, but Murray ’s deficit was reduced to £ 30 ( Murray, 1866 ). TVC sold out in 1874, and Murray settled the account in July of that year (Murray, 1874 ). A second edition ( Fig. 1C–E ) was published in 1877 ( Cooke and Murray, 1877 ; Darwin, 1877a ). This edition was also published in the United States ( Darwin, 1876, 1877b ). TVC was translated into French ( Darwin, 1870 ) and German ( Darwin, 1877c ). The second edition went through at least seven printings by the early part of the 20th century ( Darwin, 1904 ). A second printing of the French edition ( Darwin, 1891 ) is identical to the first but still called “ deuxi è me é dition . ” That TVC came into being is due in no small measure to Darwin ’ s publisher, John Murray III ( Fig. 1G ), who was part of a publishing dynasty that still exists at present, even as part of the Hodder Headline conglomerate. John Murray I (1745 – 1793), a Royal Marines officer who gave up his commission in 1768 ( Murray, 1919 ), bought the well-established bookseller, William Sandby, and established the firm as “ John Murray (successor to Mr. Sandby), Bookseller and Stationer at No. 32 . . . Fleet Street. ” He published about 1000 titles, and his authors included Isaac D ’ Israeli (1766 – 1848), father of Benjamin D ’ Israeli (1804 – 1881), 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, the British Prime Minister who bought the Suez Canal for Britain (with money borrowed from Lionel de Rothschild). John Murray II (J.M.II; 1778 – 1843), John Murray ’ s son with his second wife, Hester Weems (sister of his first wife, Nancy), inherited the company in 1793 at the age of 14 and bought out his father ’ s partner in 1803. J.M.II became a successful publisher to authors such as Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Michael Faraday, Thomas Malthus, and Walter Scott. John Murray III (J.M.III; 1808 – 1892), was sent to study at Edinburgh University in 1817 at the age of 18 ( Murray, 1919 ). There he took classes in geology, mineralogy (both of which were his favorites), political economy, chemistry, French, German, mathematics, and riding. He also did a lot of partying and met a number of interesting individuals including “ ‘ a Mr. Audubon ’ the distinguished American naturalist ” ( Murray, 1919 ). His journey home from Edinburgh was circuitous, which is indicative of his love for travel, a passion he engaged in from 1829 until 1884. He arrived in London in 1827 and joined his father ’ s firm, which he inherited in 1843. His travels convinced him of the need for travel books, and in 1836 he initiated the red-bound Murray Handbooks for Travelers series, which was a commercial success. On inheriting the firm in 1843, J.M.III found it to be a leading publisher in London but a company that was not very sound financially. He remedied the situation after many years of hard work ( Murray, 1919 ). J.M.III was conservative, old fashioned, and a churchman. Therefore, publication of Darwin ’ s Origin of Species probably presented a problem for him. He showed it to the Rev. Whitwell Elwin (1816 – 1900), a man of strong opinions and the autocratic editor of the Quarterly Review , who suggested a book on pigeons instead. J.M.III also showed the manuscript to his friend George Pollock, who recommended publication. To his credit, J.M.III, a man of courage, published the book despite his devotion to his church. He published Darwin ’ s other books after that and seems to have been an encouraging, accommodating, generous, and patient publisher. The following episode, recounted by his son Sir John Murray IV (J.M.IV; 1851 – 1928), tells much about J.M.III and Charles Darwin. Charles Darwin was one of the most courteous and modest of authors. I was present when he called, in 1887, with a MS. in his hands and said, “ Here is a work which has occupied me for many years and interested me much. I

2134 American Journal of Botany [Vol. 96 fear the subject of it will not attract the public, but will you publish it for me? ” My father [J.M.III] replied, “ It always gives me pleasure and hope to hear an author speak of his work thus. What is the subject? ” “ Earthworms, ” said Darwin. The book was published, and six editions were called for in less than a year ( Murray, 1919 ). J.M.IV continued with the firm and was Queen Victoria ’ s publisher. His successors, Sir John Murray V (1884 – 1967), John Murray VI (1909 – 1993), and John Murray VII (b. 1941), also managed the firm until it was sold to Hodder Headline in 2002. TAXONOMY OF DARWIN ’ S ORCHIDS The first edition of Darwin ’ s book on the fertilization of orchids by insects was published in 1862. It consists of 365 pages, including 34 illustrations, which are divided into seven chapters. At least 63 different orchid genera are considered in that edition. They are grouped into the major tribes of Orchidaceae as circumscribed by Lindley (1826 and 1830 – 1840). Most of the discussion focuses on various terrestrial orchids native to temperate Europe (e.g., Orchis , Spiranthes , Epipactis , Goodyera , Cypripedium ), as would be expected, but Chapters V and VI are devoted mostly to Old and New World tropical species that were being cultivated in English glasshouses in the day. These include Cattleya , Dendrobium , Angraecum , and Catasetum , among others. With the second edition in 1877 came a significant increase in attention to foreign orchids and a slight reorganization of the book ’ s chapters to emphasize the contemporary classification used as a guiding framework for the text. The total number of orchid genera treated was expanded to approximately 85 (a 35% increase over the first edition), four additional illustrations were included, and the chapters were further divided from seven into nine. Listed in order, these were headed with the names of Lindley ’ s seven orchid tribes: I. Ophre æ ; II. Ophre æ continued; III. Arethuseæ ; IV. Neotteæ ; V. Malaxeæ and Epidendreæ ; VI. Vandeæ ; VII. Vandeæ continued, Catasetidæ ; VIII. Cypripedeæ and Homologies of the Flowers of Orchids; IX. Gradation of Organs, etc., and Concluding Remarks. Only one infra-tribal orchid lineage was emphasized — a clade of orchids that today are recognized as subtribe Catasetinae. Darwin erroneously referred to this group as a subfamily at the start of Chapter VII, perhaps to emphasize his unique fascination with these plants. Within the text he stated, “ I have reserved for separate description one subfamily of the Vandeae, namely, Catasetid æ , which must, I think, be considered as the most remarkable of all Orchids ” (p. 178). Before considering further the role of taxonomy within Darwin ’ s book, it is worth reviewing the state of orchid classification at that time. In 1827, Lindley published in Latin his short Orchidearum sceletos , in which the family Orchidaceae (excluding the family Apostasiaceae) was divided into eight tribes: Neottie æ , Arethuse æ , Gastrodie æ , Ophryde æ , Vande æ , Epidendre æ , Malaxide æ , and Cypripedie æ . Subsequently, from 1830 to 1840, Lindley published in English his revised and greatly expanded The Genera and Species of Orchidaceaous Plants, in which only seven tribes were treated but with some of these divided further into “ sections ” and “ divisions. ” For example, Malaxideae was divided into sections Pleurothalleae and Dendrobieae. Curiously, he did not divide tribe Vandeae further, so Darwin ’ s use of the name “ Catasetidae ” was apparently meant to be informal only; the modern subtribal name “ Catasetinae ” is attributed to Schlechter. Only 1980 species of orchid were known at the time, but Lindley was the first to admit that this number was far too low. He estimated that the world ’ s orchids might total as many as 6000 species. Darwin must have had a copy of Lindley ’ s book in his personal library. We can make this assumption because he begins Chapter I with, “ Throughout the following volume I have followed, as far as I conveniently could, the arrangement of the Orchide æ given by Lindley ” (p. 6). Darwin also personally thanked Dr. Lindley for sending fresh and dried specimens and for kindly helping him in “ various ways ” (p. 129). The same expression of gratitude was included in the first edition. It is not surprising that Darwin chose to organize his orchid book using the classification system of the day. First, it offers a logical means of dividing the book into discreet chapters, but more importantly, Darwin felt that taxonomy and classification had something to offer in terms of revealing patterns of evolution by natural selection — a topic that was still fresh in his mind, since the orchid book was his first to be published after The Origin of Species ( Darwin, 1859 ). Classification is the subject of Chapter 13 in The Origin , the final chapter before making a recapitulation and drawing conclusions about his new theory. Within that chapter, Darwin argued the following: Naturalists, as we have seen, try to arrange the species, genera, and families in each class, on what is called the Natural System. But what is meant by this system? Some authors look at it merely as a scheme for arranging together those living objects which are most alike, and for separating those which are most unlike; . . . But many naturalists think that something more is meant by the Natural System; they believe that it reveals the plan of the Creator; but unless it be specified whether order in time or space, or both, or what else is meant by the plan of the Creator, it seems to me that nothing is thus added to our knowledge . . . I believe that something more is included, and that propinquity of descent — the only known cause of the similarity of organic beings — is the bond, hidden as it is by various degrees of modification, which is partially revealed to us by our classifications. ” ( Darwin, 1859, p. 413) Later, within the same chapter (p. 424), Darwin states that “ every naturalist has in fact brought descent into his classification. ” He uses an example from Orchidaceae to make his point: “ As soon as three Orchidean forms ( Monochanthus , Myanthus , and Catasetum ), which had previously been ranked as three distinct genera, were known to be sometimes produced on the same spike, they were immediately included as a single species. ” We can assume, therefore, that some of Darwin ’ s conclusions about orchids as presented in TVC were based not so much on his own observations as a scientist, but on his assumption that the orchid taxonomists (i.e., John Lindley) had some insight into the phylogeny of these plants as reflected in their system of classification. For example, in Chapter III. Arethuse æ , Darwin makes the observation that Cephalanthera “ appears to me like a degraded Epipactis , a member of the Neotteae, to be described in the next chapter ” (p. 80). He says this because both genera lack a rostellum and coherent pollinia. Had Lindley classified the two genera within the same tribe, one suspects that Darwin might have considered them as being

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