Charles DARWIN (1809-1882)

30 000 - 40 000 EUR

Charles DARWIN (1809-1882)

English naturalist, geologist and biologist.

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 format, ix, 502 pp. with a folding diagram facing p. 117 by W. West, half-title verso with quotations by Whewell and Bacon, 32-page publisher’s catalogue dated June 1859 at the end (“Mr. Murray’s General List of Works”); a few light spots in first leaves. Original publisher’s blind panelled green grained cloth (with Edmonds & Remnants ticket), spine gilt, brown-coated endpapers, in a green articulated cloth and leather box with title piece: “On the Origin of Species. First Edition. Autograph Orchard Plan”. Slight rubbing on joints with a bit of colour restoration at top of upper joint, inch tear in top edge of upper cover. Dimensions: 200 x 124 mm.

First edition. Of the first run of 1 250 copies. Darwin's seminal book that shared his theory of evolution with a lay audience. Darwin wrote in his diary that all 1 250 copies of the first edition, published on November 24, were sold on the first day; however, more accurately, nearly all of the edition had been sold to the trade immediately, with the exception of personal copies set aside for Darwin and review copies.

A handsome copy.

Dibner 199: “The most important single work in science”. Freeman 373. Garrison and Morton 220. Horblit 23b. Norman Library I, 594. PMM, 344b: “The five years [of Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle] were the most important event in Darwin’s intellectual life and in the history of biological science. Darwin sailed with no formal training. He returned a hard-headed man of science… The experiences of his five years in the Beagle, how he dealt with them, and what they led to, built up into a process of epoch-making importance in the history of thought”

Copies of the original first edition have fetched high prices, including at Christie’s, London, 24 November 2009, lot 48, where the influential, green-cloth volume sold for £ 103,250; another copy (presentation copy) sold at Christie’s, 15 November 2011, lot 54 for 134 500 $; sold at Christie’s, 9 July 2019, lot 246 for £ 225 000.

Without question a watershed work in the history of modern life sciences, Darwin’s Origin elaborated a proposition that species slowly evolve from common ancestors through the mechanism of natural selection. The entire text is essentially an introduction to, and amplification of the iconoclastic thesis that Darwin abstracts at the beginning of chapter 4 (Natural Selection):

If such do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive) that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any 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.

Provenance: Sarah B. Wheatland (embossed ownership stamp on front endpaper). Sarah Wheatland was a scientist, active in the 1950s, author for example of Oceanography of Long Island Sound, 1952-1954 (1956).


DARWIN Charles (1809-1882). English naturalist, geologist and biologist.

Autograph manuscript unsigned. [Description and Enumeration of Darwin’s Garden and Walk], 11 pages [Down House, ca. 1846] a bit of marginal browning and spotting, pinholes at top left corner of first page.

Dimensions: 200 x 159 mm. Leaves placed in a fitted green folder with modern description of content: “Darwin’s Description and Enumeration of his Garden and Walk”.

List of trees and plants for the orchards, walks and gardens at Down House as planned by Charles Darwin.

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 and witness to the solace he found in trees and plants.

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