7 June 2006
DARWIN, Charles Robert (1809-1882). Insectivorous Plants. London: John Murray, 1875.
8° (183 x 121mm). 30 wood-engravings in text. (Half-title spotted, title faintly spotted and creased, block split at Y1.) Original green cloth, covers with blind frame, gilt spine (rubbed at extremities, lower corners bumped, inner hinges split). Provenance: PRESENTATION COPY TO HIS SISTER, CAROLINE (half-title inscribed "From the author" in a clerical hand; title with initials "C.S.W." at head).
FIRST EDITION, PRESENTED TO CAROLINE WEDGWOOD. After conducting some early experiments on Drosera or the common sun-dew in 1860, Darwin resumed a serious interest in insect-catching plants in 1872. Desmond and Moore paint an amusing picture of him busily amassing 'fly-traps, bladderworts and butterworts' who were 'wined, dined, and poisoned. They arrived from around the world to be held on remand in the garden hot-house. They presented a rogues' gallery in their pots, displaying every devious means of gluing, trapping and drowning their prey. As the experiments proceeded he began writing Insectivorous Plants. Inevitably the strain proved too much' (Darwin, p. 597). But if Darwin had become 'trapped on a literary treadmill, walking faster and faster towards the grave', it is all the more remarkable that he could sustain the effort. Insectivorous Plants was published on 2 July, 1875, Darwin's sons, George and Francis, contributing illustrations. Despite being a poor draughtsman, he himself drew figures 7 and 8. Freeman 1217; Norman 601.
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