Home page

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
DARWIN, Charles Robert (1809-1882). 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.
No VAT on hammer price or buyer's premium. The Property of Sir Martin Wedgwood, from the Library of Caroline Wedgwood, née Darwin (see introduction to lot 1)
DARWIN, Charles Robert (1809-1882). 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.

DARWIN, Charles Robert (1809-1882). 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.

8° in 12s, folding lithographic diagram by W. West, 32p. list of John Murray's works inserted at end, dated June 1859. (Diagram with 30mm. tear at lower blank margin, spotting chiefly affecting half-title, title and text up to D1, outer margin of H11v and H12r with slight soil mark, block split at M1, U7-8 with minor staining at upper margin.) Original green diapered cloth with Edmonds and Remnants label, covers with blind-stamped panel design, spine gilt lettered and decorated with two triangles (spine slightly frayed at head and foot, and with 13mm. tear along upper joint, inner hinges cracked). Provenance: PRESENTATION COPY [TO CAROLINE AND JOSIAH WEDGWOOD] (verso of front free endpaper inscribed 'From the author' in the hand of Murray's clerk; and further inscribed above 'J. Wedgwood Leith Hill'; manuscript amendments in pencil on pp. 287, 459 and 481 appear to be in Caroline's hand, the last is also the subject of a pencil note on rear free endpaper; two page numbers are pencilled on the title-page; and there is a further list of eleven page numbers on verso of the final advertisement leaf, some of which have a question-mark against them or correspond to a scored passage in the text).

FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY TO DARWIN'S SISTER AND BROTHER-IN-LAW, WITH A SUGGESTED AMENDMENT ACTED UPON IN THE SECOND EDITION. The book which destroyed the anthropocentric concept of the universe and 'caused a greater upheaval in man's thinking than any other scientific advance since the rebirth of science in the Renaissance' (Ernst Mayr, quoted by Bernard Cohen, Revolution in Science, 1985, p. 283) was not only long in gestation but subject to careful revision over the first six editions. Darwin's correspondence with John Murray shows that he was at first thinking of distributing between 100 and 120 copies of the first edition (letter to John Murray, 31 March [1859]). Adjustments to this quantity were made several times before its official publication on 24 November 1859, and Murray's own accounts indicate that eventually 12 copies were allowed to Darwin while another 41 were presented in advance of publication or sent out as review copies. The Correpondence of Charles Darwin, vol. VII, identifies 29 known recipients, compiled solely on the basis of published letters (to which T.V. Wollaston can now certainly be added), and 16 probable recipients. Of those on the two lists, only three are relatives, Erasmus Alvey Darwin, Caroline Sarah Wedgwood, and Hensleigh Wedgwood, brother of Jos and Emma. Darwin was clearly delighted by his sister's critical response to the book. He wrote to her from Ilkley, [after 21 November 1859], saying: 'I am astounded that you care as much for my Book as you seem to do. Your doubts and queries are perfectly correct. Lyell was bothered on same point and I have not expressed myself clearly [according to n.2 in the Correspondence, Lyell and CD had been corresponding about the descent of domesticated species]. By my theory, all dogs, wolves, jackalls, &c. have descended from one very ancient species. The passage you allude to refers only to the amount of modification which our domestic dogs have undergone under domestication ....' He refers to an adverse review ('I have been cut up in Athenaeum'), but believes 'I shall convert 4 or 5 really good judges and that will content me ... If 4 or 5 good judges are not converted, then I may be a monomaniac'. In the post-script, he adds: 'If Jos. makes any criticisms I should like to hear them' (Correspondence VII, pp. 386-87).

The probability seems strong that Caroline's pencil notes were made when she first read the book rather than later. The key note concerns the denudation of the Weald on p. 287 of chapter IX ('The Imperfection of the Geological Record'). By the time the third edition of the Origin was published (April, 1861), Darwin had lost faith in his original calculation that the erosion would have taken as long as 300 million years (though the calculation, based on figures supplied by Andrew Crombie Ramsay, a friend and colleague of Joseph Beete Jukes on the Geological Survey of Ireland, was in fact correct). Indeed he gave up the argument entirely by omitting his previous discussion from the text of the third and later editions. In the earlier, revised U.S. edition of 1860, the discussion was 'made milder' and he appended the following note: 'I confess that an able and justly severe article in the Saturday Review (Dec. 24th 1859) shows that I have been rash. I have not suficiently allowed for the softeness of the strata underlying the chalk ... Nor have I allowed for the denudation going on on both sides of the ancient Weald Bay ....' (See Correspondence VIII, pp. 62-63). Following publication of the Saturday Review article late in 1859, John Phillips, president of the Geological Society, attacked the figures in his presidential address at the annual meeting of the society on 17 February 1860, and later in the year Darwin had discussions with Lyell about 'the confounded Wealden calculation'. However, a sentence added to the second edition of Origin, published 7 January 1860, shows that his doubts existed before the Saturday Review article had even appeared. The manuscript note made about the denudation in this copy suggests that his calculation was first questioned by no other person than his former teacher, Caroline. It consists of a calculation at the head of the page questioning the given figure of 306,662,400 years, and of a three-line query at the foot: 'the denudation must be supposed to go on both north and south borders[.] this estimate must be halved?'.

In the second edition, Darwin continued to suggest 'a denudation of one inch per century' for the whole length of a cliff 500 feet in height, and didn't change his figures. However, he did add this sentence as a corollary, admitting that his calculation might be halved or even reduced by two thirds: 'But perhaps it would be safer to allow two or three inches per century, and this would reduce the number of years to one hundred and fifty or one hundred million years'. While we do not know the exact date of Caroline's pencil note, it seems very probable that Darwin's qualifying sentence was added to the second edition on account of it; in other words, that she recorded and expressed her doubts to him when she first read the book in November 1859.

Considering that his fellow scientists were all men, it may seem improbable that Caroline, a teacher of infants, should have thought out this matter for herself. On the other hand, she was a Darwin, she is known to have expressed strong interest in Lyell's work, and the above letter from Charles, acknowledging the correctness of her 'doubts and queries', indicates that she could still adopt the loving but slightly critical attitude of an older sister towards him. Although her letter to him has not been traced, and others on the subject may have been lost, his reply to her indicates that she was able to respond intelligently and as an equal to the arguments of the Origin.

The minor textual change suggested on p. 459 ('under consideration' for 'which we may consider'), and the suggestion that 'design' replace 'sign' in the sentence 'sterility is a special endowment and sign of creation' on p. 481, were apparently not made in later editions. The page numbers listed by Caroline, presumably for mention in discussion with her brother, with a question-mark where indicated, are: 109, 170 on the title-page; 224, 44, 79, 105, 143?, 177, 241?, 286, 316?, 321, 335 on the advertisement leaf; and 254 on the rear pastedown; those scored in the text are 109, 170, 286 and 316.

Dibner Heralds 199; Eimas Heirs 1724; Freeman 373; Garrison and Morton 220; Grolier Science 23b; Norman 593; PMM 344b; Sparrow Milestones 49; Waller 10786.
Special Notice

No VAT on hammer price or buyer's premium.

More from Natural History, Plate Books and Cartography

View All
View All