Description

    "The Most Important Biological Book Ever Written"

    Charles Darwin. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. London: John Murray, 1859.

    First edition, with two quotations only, from Whewell and Bacon, on the verso of the half-title (p. [ii]), and with the misprint "specieis" on page 20, line 11. Octavo in twelves (7.8125 x 4.875 inches; 198 x 125 mm.). ix, [1, "Instructions to Binder"], 502 pages plus 32 pages publisher's catalogue ("Mr. Murray's General List of Works"), dated June, 1859 (in Freeman's third form). Folding lithographed diagram by William West, indicating Darwin's views of possible sequences of evolution facing, page 117.

    Original green ripple-grain cloth with covers decoratively paneled in blind and spine ruled, decoratively stamped, and lettered in gilt (Freeman's variant "a," although the gap between the lower triangle and the gilt rule below it is closer to 1 mm. than 2 mm.). Original light brown coated endpapers. Evidence of a binder's ticket having once been present on the rear pastedown. Corners rubbed, a few short splits to cloth at spine extremities (three tiny splits and one quarter-inch split at head of spine, tiny split at foot of spine), board edges very lightly bumped in a few places, a few small areas of slight discoloration to cloth on rear cover. Front hinge cracked, but holding, rear hinge starting and very neatly strengthened. Overopened in a few places, but no gatherings actually sprung. A few leaves poorly opened, tiny tear and crease to lower edge of leaves Y9-Y11(pages 497-502), a few additional tiny marginal holes, a few corners faintly creased. Paper slightly browned, some very occasional light foxing and marginal soiling. A few marginal pencil marks in the publisher's catalogue. Overall, an excellent copy, with both the cloth and the gilt on the spine still very fresh and bright. From the library of Punch artist Charles Keene (1823-1891), with his bookplate on the front pastedown. Chemised in a custom green cloth slipcase lettered in gilt on the spine.

    One of the most influential scientific works of the nineteenth century, On the Origin of Species was (and still is) one of the most controversial. In it "Darwin not only drew an entirely new picture of the workings of organic nature; he revolutionized our methods of thinking and our outlook on the natural order of things. The recognition that constant change is the order of the universe had been finally established and a vast step forward in the uniformity of nature had been taken" (Printing and the Mind of Man).

    "What the dropping of the first atomic bomb was to the twentieth century, the publication of Darwin's On the origin of species was to the nineteenth century. Battle lines were drawn on both religious and scientific grounds" (Heirs of Hippocrates).

    Dibner 199 ("the most important single work in science"). Freeman 373 ("the most important biological book ever written"). Garrison and Morton 220. Grolier, 100 English, 96. Grolier/Horblit 23b ("the most influential scientific work of the nineteenth century"). Heirs of Hippocrates 1724. Printing and the Mind of Man 344b.


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    Auction Dates
    February, 2010
    11th-12th Thursday-Friday
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