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Adding Darwin's Orchid.

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Sam Jacoby
Sam Jacoby committed Mar 30, 2014
1 parent 74ad011 commit d061c61647bf7429dc2c242437f55c138f025cb4
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title: "Darwin's Orchid"
summary: "The great scientist's bad day."
thumbnail: darwin-1.jpg
weight: 95
<div class="text-quote larger ">
<p>I am very poorly today & very stupid & hate everybody & everything. One lives only to make blunders.</p>
<p>I am going to write a little Book for Murray on orchids & today I hate them worse than everything.</p>
<p><span style="font-style: normal">Charles Darwin, Letter to Charles Lytrell, 1860</span></p>
<br />
The lines above, taken from Darwin's grumpy [letter]( to a friend, is a source of consolation to the not-quite Darwins among us: it says--"Hey, I may be one the greatest scientists of all time, but I'm not so sure about this shit."
So Darwin was having a bad day. That's amusing enough--but what of these orchids? And why did Darwin hate them so? A quick web search pointed me towards [Angraecum sesquipedale](,d.cWc), *Darwin's Orchid*.
<a href="" title="IMG_9053-Edit by Sam Jacoby, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="375" alt="IMG_9053-Edit"></a>
Found only in Madagascar, *Angraecum sesquipedale* has an unusually long spur. Examining a specimen, relayed to him by a botanist friend, Darwin posited that any accompanying pollinator would have to be equipped with appropriately distended hardware. Imagine everyones' delight then, when "21 years after [Darwin's] death," a moth with just such a 25-centimeter proboscis was discovered.
So inspired, I was initially thinking of printing the broadside from polymer, but put that aside in favor of more expedient digital printing. To that end, I started looking for good illustrations. I found what I was looking for at the Harvard University Herbaria, one of those odd corners of campus that I've always notices--greenhouses poking above its roof--but never had made it to. There, the alarmingly helpful staff pulled a number of books from the archives--pulling a number of scans for me on the spot. The below is taken from *Revue Horticole*, from the Librarie Agricole de la Maison Rustique, Paris, 1860. Quite elegant, I thought!
{{ macros.render_figure('<a href="" title="darwin_orchid+c by Sam Jacoby, on Flickr"><img src="" width="298" height="500" alt="darwin_orchid+c"></a>', "") }}
The rest was easy. I snipped out the text, pushed a few pixels around, and sent it off to the good men & women of the Puritan Press, who took care of the rest.
As for Darwin? Apparently, he made it through that lousy day. His "Book for Murray" became [Fertilisation of Orchids](, published by John Murray in 1862, and a classic in its field.
"Darwin's Orchid" is set in Palintino and digitally printed by the Puritan Press in an edition of 75.
{{ macros.render_figure('<a href="" title="darwin-poster-5 by Sam Jacoby, on Flickr"><img src="" width="534" height="800" alt="darwin-poster-5"></a>, "Darwin's Orchid") }}

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