7 June 2006
The Property of Sir Martin Wedgwood, from the Library of Caroline Wedgwood, née Darwin (see introduction to lot 1)
DARWIN, Charles Robert (1809-1882). The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms with Observations on their Habits. London: John Murray, 1881.
8° (182 x 118mm). 15 woodblocks in text, advertisement leaf at end. (Light spotting to title, slight marginal tear to subsequent leaf.) Original green cloth, covers with blind frame, gilt spine (rear hinges split). Provenance: PRESENTATION COPY TO CAROLINE WEDGWOOD (printed slip, 'From the author', on front pastedown; signature, 'C.S. Wedgwood', on title).
FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, PRESENTED TO CAROLINE, now a widow. Worms formed 'a perfect project for a slow moving country gentleman with a penchant for leisurely appreciative walks at home and on the estates of friends and relatives'. While staying at Leith Hill in June 1877, Darwin was delighted to find ancient slabs from a limekiln, five feet long, sunk in the ground. The next day Caroline's gardeners lifted them so he could see 'the fine black mould of worms' beneath (Janet Browne II, p. 447). Darwin's last book went to press on 1 May, 1881, and sold remarkably well considering that not everybody shared his interest in the activities of the lowly earthworm. According to Freeman, 6000 copies were sold within a year, and 13,000 before the end of the century. 'To begin with it sold faster than The Origin of Species had.' The word 'Earth-worms' appears on the spine although not on the title-page. Freeman 1357.
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