17 June 2008
DARWIN, Charles (1809-1882). For Private Distribution ... Extracts from Letters addressed to Professor Henslow by C. Darwin, Esq. Cambridge: [the University Press for the Cambridge Philosophical Society], Dec. 1, 1835.
8o (218 x 140 mm). Collation: A-B8. 32pp. Contents: [p. 1 (title), p. 2 (blank) p. 3], pp. 4-31, [p. 32 (blank)]. Disbound (remains of original paper wrappers to spine); modern quarter maroon morocco clamshell box. Provenance: Ashmolean Society (presentation inscription on the first page of text from Professor John Stevens Henslow).
FIRST EDITION AND THE ONLY KNOWN PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED BY HENSLOW above the title: "Ashmolean society from Professor Henslow."
DARWIN'S FIRST SEPARATELY PRINTED WORK AND OF THE GREATEST RARITY. This unauthorized pamphlet contains extracts from ten letters written by Darwin to John Stevens Henslow (1796-1861) during his five-year voyage on the Beagle. Henslow, the charismatic and well-connected Regis Professor of Botany at Cambridge, was Darwin's close friend and first mentor in natural history and responsible for obtaining for Darwin his position as ship's naturalist aboard the Beagle. Henslow had this pamphlet printed without Darwin's knowledge for distribution amongst the members of the Cambridge Philosophical Society "in consequence of the interest which has been excited by some of the Geological notices which they contain, and which were read at a Meeting of the Society on the 16th of November 1835" (p. )., an act which secured Darwin's reputation with the scientific community even before his return to England in October, 1836. Upon learning of this pamphlet's publication Darwin was "a good deal horrified" at Henslow making public "what had been written without care or accuracy" (Barlow, ed., Charles Darwin and the Voyage of the Beagle, pp. 140-42). However their friendship survived and at the end of his life Darwin acknowledged his friendship as the most important "circumstance" of his life. EXCEPTIONALLY RARE: according to American Book Prices Current only three copies have appeared at auction since 1975. No presentation copies, by Darwin or Henslow, are recorded. It is highly unlikely that Darwin woud have ever inscribed a copy of this unauthorized publication, making Henslow's inscription, as recipient of Darwin's correspondence, of the utmost importance. Freeman 1; Norman 583.
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