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    Sale 2013

    Important Scientific Books: The Richard Green Library

    17 June 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 81

    DARWIN, Charles. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. London: John Murray, 1859.

    Price Realised  


    DARWIN, Charles. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. London: John Murray, 1859.

    8o in 12s (198 x 125 mm). 32 pp. publisher's catalogue dated June 1859 [Freeman variant 3] at end. Half-title with quotations from "W. Whewell" and Bacon only on verso. Folding lithographic diagram by William West after Darwin bound to face page 117 (one or two tiny spots). (Some minor spotting mainly affecting the preliminaries.) Original green cloth, covers decorated in blind, gilt spine [Freeman variant b], brown coated endpapers, uncut by Edmonds and Remnants with their ticket on the lower pastedown (extremities lightly rubbed, head and foot of spine and corners a bit bumped, small blemish to lower front cover, inner hinges strengthened); modern half green morocco gilt slipcase. Provenance: John Addington Symonds (1840-1893), English poet (inscription); Herbert McLean Evans (1882-1971) Endocrinologist (bookplate).


    FIRST EDITION OF DARWIN'S MOST INFLUENTIAL WORK, from the library of English poet, literary critic and leading pioneer of sexual and social reform, John Addington Symonds, inscribed by him on the front free endpaper from the Symonds' family home Clifton Hill House in Bristol. Symonds with Havelock Ellis (1859-1939) coauthored Sexual Inversion (published posthumously in 1897), the first social scientific work to describe homosexuality in objective terms. Subsequently from the library of Herbert McLean Evans whose contribution to the field of endocrinology while unmarked by the achievement of a Nobel Prize, was nonetheless remarkable for isolating the Human Growth Hormone and co-discovering Vitamin E.

    Although some key observations and findings from the voyage of the Beagle acted as his initial inspiration, Darwin's ideas about the beneficial mutation of species did not cohere into the theory of evolution until his reading of Thomas Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population in the latter half of 1838. The theory which Malthus applied to humans made it clear to him that with species in general competition left only the best adapted to biological life. While the randomness of the process made it irreconcilable with higher design, Darwin nevertheless treated nature anthropomorphically "as a sort of omnipotent breeder who selected the most useful traits" (Adrian Desmond, James Moore and Janet Browne in ODNB). Before moving to Down House, he wrote a 35-page sketch of his evolutionary theory, completed in June 1842. By February 1844 he had converted this into a coherent 231-page essay. There was then a considerable break until late in 1854 when, having finished his barnacle volumes, he returned to collating his notes on species. On 14 May 1856, after consulting Charles Lyell, he began writing an extended treatise aimed at his peers. By March 1858 "Natural Selection" was two thirds complete at 250,000 words, the whole book projected to run to three volumes. Then in June 1858 Darwin received a letter about evolution from Alfred Russell Wallace, who had arrived at similar conclusions independently. This led to papers on the subject by both scientists being read to the Linnean Society of London on 1 July. To stay ahead of the field Darwin had now to publish more rapidly. Urged on by Hooker, he wrote an "abstract" of "Natural Selection," finishing a manuscript of 155,000 words in April 1859. "The book, stripped of references and academic paraphenalia, was aimed not at the specialists, but directly at the reading public." Finally published as The Origin of Species on 24 November 1859 in a print run of 1250 copies, it expounded a theory of evolution that was recognisably superior and of infinitely greater impact than all previous hypotheses explaining biological diversity. With "species" mispelled "speceies" on page 20, with the whale-bear story in full on page 184. Dibner Heralds of Science 199; Heirs of Hippocrates 1724; Freeman 373; Garrison-Morton (1991) 220; Grolier Science 23b; Norman 593; PMM 344b; Sparrow Milestones 49; Waller 10786.

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