Darwin, Charles On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. London: [W Clowes and Sons for] John Murray, 1859. Octavo (7 ? x 4 ? in.; 200 x 124 mm.), Half-title verso with quotations by Whewell and Bacon, folding lithographed diagram by W. West, 32- page publisher’s catalogue dated June 1859 at the end (Freeman’s form 3); a few light spots in first leaves. Publisher’s blind panelled green grained cloth (with Edmonds & Remnants ticket), spine gilt (Freeman’s variant 1), brown-coated endpapers, in a green-cloth drop-box; slight rubbing on joints with a bit of color restoration at top of upper joint, ? inch tear in top edge of upper cover.
A handsome copy of “The most important single work in science”
(Dibner, Heralds of Science), which still remains a foundational pillar of modern scientific endeavor alongside relativity and quantum mechanics. Darwin’s theory of natural selection, which has been called “design without a designer” (Francisco J. Ayala) displaced humans as the epicenter of the natural world, just as Copernicus had cast out the earth from the center of the universe before him.
The entire text is essentially an introduction to, and amplification of the iconoclastic thesis that Darwin abstracts at the beginning of chapter 4: many more individuals are born than can possibly survive [l]ndividuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and procreating their kind ... [A]ny variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed. This preservation of favourable variations and the rejection of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection.
The book, stripped of references and academic paraphernalia, was aimed not at the specialists but directly at the reading public ... John Murray agreed to publish it sight unseen. Darwin arranged with Murray to send out a large number of complimentary copies, fearing the publication would be a catastrophe. In the event the 1,250 print-run was oversubscribed and caused an immediate sensation, requiring Murray to initiate a reprint almost immediately after publication.
Together with: Autograph manuscript unsigned 11 pages (7 ? x 6 ¼ in.; 200 x 159 mm.), [Down House, ca. 1846] being an extensive list of trees and plants for his orchards, walks and gardens at Down House; marginal browning and spotting, pinholes at top left corner of first page.
Trees and plants for the orchards, walks and gardens at Down House.
Down House stands south of Downe, a village 14.25 miles southeast of London’s Charing Cross. Darwin moved into Down House in 1842 and proceeded to make extensive alterations to the house and the grounds. In 1846, Darwin rented , and later purchased, a narrow strip of land of 1.5 acres adjoining the Down House grounds to the southwest. He named it Sandwalk Wood and had a wide variety of trees planted and ordered a gravel path known as the “sandwalk” to be created around the perimeter. Darwin’s daily walk of several circuits of his path served both for exercise and quiet contemplation. The present manuscript contains lengthy lists of a wide array of trees and plants for his expanding grounds. He begins with a large selection of trees for his orchard including apple, pear, apricot and cherry trees. Subsequent pages include a list of vines, shrubs and flowering plants to be situated against house beginning east side. The last two pages contain a list of plants, many flowering for the front of house garden and right or west side going along walk to garden.
An extraordinary manuscript revealing Darwin’s great interest in his lush grounds at Down House.
References: Dibner 199; Freeman 373; Grolier/Horblit 23b: Grolier/Medicine 70b; Norman 593; PMM 344b
Provenance: Sarah B. Wheatland (embossed ownership stamp on front endpaper).