DARWIN, Charles Robert (1809-1882) and Alfred Russel WALLACE (1823-1913). 'On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties.' Extract from: Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society, Vol. III, No. 9. London: 1858.
'The first printed exposition of the theory of evolution by natural selection' (Norman 591). Darwin's theory of evolution – drawn from his studies during the voyage of the Beagle and clarified by Malthus's concept of the self-regulation of population growth – crystallised in 1838. However, he did not publish or debate it at that time, and, after writing an unpublished essay on the subject between 1839 and 1844 which was shown to a limited circle of friends, he did little further work on it. In April 1856 he described the theory to Sir Charles Lyell (whose Principles of Geology had been a major influence on the geological studies that led Darwin to the question of evolution), who urged Darwin to publish his hypothesis. Darwin began to write a book on evolution and natural selection in the summer of 1858, but the work – which was to become On the Origin of Species – progressed slowly. In February 1858 Wallace had independently developed the same theory as Darwin, and on 18 June 1858, Darwin received a letter from Wallace 'containing a perfect summary of the views which he had worked out in the preceding twenty years' (DSB III, p.573). Lyell and Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker suggested that Wallace publish his paper, prefaced by Darwin's essay of 1844 and a letter from Darwin to Asa Gray on natural selection dated 5 September 1857, which demonstrated that Darwin's theory had 'remained unaltered from 1839 to 1857' ('On the Tendency of Species...', p.46). Thus, on 1 July 1858, Lyell read Darwin's essay and letter, and Hooker read Wallace's 'On the Tendency of Varieties to depart indefinitely from the Original Type' to the Linnean Society, publishing them in the present issue of the Journal, and preparing the way for the publication of On the Origin of Species on 24 November 1859.
The Darwin-Wallace paper, due to the publishing quirks of the Linnean Society, was available in 5 different forms, but all were printed from the same setting of type. Besides the author's offprints, there were 4 forms of the Journal: separate parts were issued under the Zoology section (in pink wrappers), the Botany section (green wrappers), or both together (the present lot, in blue wrappers). All 3 bear the date 20 August 1858, and have priority over the later published complete journal volume made from reserved stock of the parts with reset titles. Freeman 346; PMM 344a; Grolier 23a (offprint issue); Norman 591 (offprint issue).
Octavo (217 x 137mm), comprising 9 leaves (pp. 45-62). Extract preserving original blue wrappers, modern red half morocco. Provenance: Meyer Friedman (bookplate; purchased at Sotheby's 13 November 1972, lot 147).