DARWIN, Charles (1809-1882). The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs: being the first part of the Geology of the Voyage of the Beagle. London: Smith, Elder, 1842.
8° (221 x 140mm). 3 folding engraved maps, 2 hand-coloured in outline, 6 woodblocks in text. Final leaf with 2-page advertisement for Darwin's Geological Observations and the Zoology of the Beagle. A further 16p. advertisement by Smith, Elder, dated May 1842, inserted at end. (Frontispiece map laid down, title slightly thumb-soiled.) Original blue cloth by Westleys and Clark (rebacked in blue morocco, inner hinges repaired, covers slightly faded). Provenance: W.H., probably William Venables Vernon Harcourt (1789-1871, founder of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; bookplate) -- Verney (bookplate).
FIRST EDITION. Darwin thought out his theory of coral formation on the west coast of South America before ever seeing a coral reef, substituting land subsidence or elevation in place of the unseen volcanic craters conjectured by Lyell. However, the eventual writing up of his observations was a long drawn-out task. In a letter to his sister Caroline from 12 Upper Gower St, London, 27 October 1839, the newly-married Darwin described his daily routine: 'One of my days is as like another as two peas. -- as you say you want to know all about us -- I will give you a specimen; which will serve for every day -- Get up punctually at seven leaving Emma dreadful sleepy & comfortable, set to work after the first torpid feeling is over, and write about coral formations till ten; go up stairs & find that Emma has been down stairs about half an hour, eat our breakfast, sit in our arm-chairs -- and I watch the clock as the hand travels sadly too fast to half past eleven -- Then to my study and work till 2 o'clock luncheon time ....' (Correpondence, II, p. 236). As it neared completion, Darwin felt the book had aged him, telling his wife, 9 May 1842: 'I am stomachy & be blue deviled. I am daily growing very very old, very very cold & I daresay very sly. -- I will give you statistics of time spent on my coral-volume, not including all the work on board the Beagle -- I commenced it 3 years & 7 months ago, & have done scarcely anything besides -- I have actually spent 20 months out of this period on it! & nearly all the remainder sickness & visiting!!!' (Correspondence II, p. 318). Darwin's journal records that he sent the manuscript to the printers on 3 January 1842, and corrected the last proof on 6 May before journeying to Maer. Four colours were used for the maps, representing three types of reef and active volcanoes (see his letter to Lyell, 6 July 1841). Freeman 271; Norman 587.