DARWIN, Charles Robert (1809-1882). The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. London: John Murray, 1871.
2 parts in volumes (184 x 121mm), 8° (185 x 119mm). 76 woodblocks in text. Half-title to vol. I. Both vols. with 16p. advertisements for John Murray's books dated January, 1871. (Half-title spotted, title to vol. II spotted, occasional spotting of text, without half-title to vol. II.) Original green cloth, covers with blind frame, spines gilt (extremities rubbed, corners bumped). Provenance: PRESENTATION COPY TO THE AUTHOR'S SISTER, CAROLINE (front blank of vol. I inscribed 'From the Author', in a clerical hand; initials 'C.S.W.' on both titles).
PRESENTATION COPY TO CAROLINE WEDGWOOD OF THE FIRST EDITION, FIRST (TRADE) ISSUE. Darwin had skirted around the issue of man in the Origin, only hinting in a single sentence that 'much light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history' (antepenultimate paragraph). His readers had to wait for the Descent of Man to state unequivocally that 'man is descended from a hairy, tailed quadruped'. The first and most significant part of the book explores the subject fully enough to form 'a powerfully reasoned investigation of the affinities between human beings and other mammals, and the evidence for their common origin' (Cyril Aydon, Charles Darwin, 2002, p. 250). Yet, thirteen years after the Origin, such a belief was not found nearly so shocking as Darwin had feared. Three of his closest friends had already published on the subject -- Huxley in his Zoological Evidences (1863), Lyell in his Antiquity of Man (1863) and Wallace in a long article in the Anthropological Review (1864). His own style was avuncular rather than confrontational, and the full implications of man's gradual evolution from a single-cell creature were easily under-estimated. For many, his book 'told an arm-chair adventure of the English evolving, clambering up from the apes, struggling to conquer savagery, multiplying and dispersing across the globe ... habituated to material progress, social mobility, and imperial adventure, the arriviste reading classes lapped it up. A romantic pedigree suited them, an epic genealogy. Disregarding the apes as they did, they found the Descent a tremendous family saga' (Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin, 1992, pp. 579-80). The two portly 450-page volumes retailed for twenty-four shillings, and although 4,500 copies were published a second edition was called for within weeks. Freeman 937; Garrison and Morton 170; Norman 599. (2)