DARWIN, Charles (1809-1882). Autograph manuscript signed ("Ch. Darwin"), titled “The Descent of Man," being a working draft in 12 lines with autograph cancellations and emendations [England, 1860s].
One page, 167 x 210mm, the lower half of a folio leaf (carefully torn at upper margin). [With:] DARWIN, Charles. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. London: John Murray, 1871. Two volumes, octavo (191 x 124mm). Wood-engraved illustrations. Publisher’s original green paneled cloth, gilt lettered on spines; custom slipcase.
An early autograph draft of a passage from Darwin’s radical treatise on human evolution, addressing the controversy over theories of racial origins, with a first edition of that book. Darwin’s theories in The Descent of Man struck a major blow against proponents of the idea that the various races of man represent separate species, rather than descending from one common ancestor. Here, he writes: “the multiple or single origin of mankind has recently been much discussed by polygenists and monogenists. The question is at once settled for those who do not admit the common descent of allied species, by determining whether or not the existing kinds of men shall be ranked as species or as races.” Darwin implies that belief in the division of mankind into distinct species or races is a necessary corollary to the creationist position, a point more fully realized in the final text: “those who do not admit the principle of evolution, must look at species either as separate creations or as in some manner distinct entities.” The present manuscript, with many corrections and emendations, provides a window into the development of Darwin’s groundbreaking and prescient scientific thought.
The final book, which “caused a furor second only to that raised by the Origin” (Norman), argues for the common origins of all mankind, placing humans in the evolutionary scheme Darwin had outlined for the rest of the animal kingdom in The Origin of Species. However, not all evolutionists shared this view—many, including Alfred Russel Wallace and Ernst Haeckel, accepted evolution but still insisted that black Africans could not be the same species as white Europeans. Science writer Richard Dawkins has noted that Darwin's supposition that the human species arose in Africa was “typically ahead of its time,” and despite the strong social pressures to think otherwise, “he carefully considered and decisively rejected the idea ... that different human races should be regarded as separate species.” The polygenist view continued to provide support for scientific racism, with scientists like Henry Fairfield Osborn (President of the American Museum of Natural History) funding expeditions to seek evidence of the origins of humans in Asia instead of Africa, until a preponderance of fossil evidence and genetic information decisively proved Darwin correct in the late 20th century. Freeman 937 (vol. II Freeman's first issue); Garrison & Morton 170; Norman 599.
Provenance: John Drake (sold to:) – Halsted B. Vander Poel (his sale, Christie’s, 3 March 2004, lot 168).