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Natural History Books

DARWIN, Charles (1809-1882). On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for Life. London: John Murray, 1860.

DARWIN, Charles (1809-1882). On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for Life. London: John Murray, 1860.

7,850.00

DARWIN, Charles (1809-1882). On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for Life. London: John Murray, 1860.

$7,850.00

8vo., (7 6/8 x  4 6/8 inches). 32-page publisher's catalogue dated January 1860 at end. Half-title with quotations from Whewell, Butler and Bacon on verso. Folding lithographic diagram by William West after Darwin bound to face page 117. Original green cloth, covers decorated in blind, gilt spine, brown coated endpapers, uncut by Edmonds and Remnants with their ticket on the lower paste-down (extremities a little rubbed, corners lightly bumped, but ATTRACTIVE).

Provenance: with the contemporary ownership inscription of Frederick Whitting (1834-1911), Eton, September 1860, on the front free endpaper; the bookplate of Herbert William Richmond (1863-1948), co-creator in mathematics of the Cremona–Richmond configuration, on the front paste-down; and the ownership inscription of George Salt (1903-2003), King's College, Cambridge, 1948, on the front paste-down, with a note from the executors of Whitting bequeathing the book to him tipped-in to the verso of the title-page 

 "A TURNING POINT, NOT ONLY IN THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE, BUT IN THE HISTORY OF IDEAS IN GENERAL" (DSB)  

Second edition, second issue, with "FIFTH THOUSAND" on the title-page, first published the previous year in 1859, of a book that changed the world, in which Darwin explained a theory of evolution that was recognisably superior and of infinitely greater impact than all previous hypotheses explaining biological diversity. Although some key observations and findings from the voyage of the Beagle acted as his initial inspiration, Darwin's ideas about the beneficial mutation of species did not cohere into the theory of evolution until his reading of Thomas Malthus's 'Essay on the Principle of Population' in the latter half of 1838. The theory which Malthus applied to humans made it clear to him that with species in general competition left only the best adapted to biological life. While the randomness of the process made it irreconcilable with higher design, Darwin nevertheless treated nature anthropomorphically "as a sort of omnipotent breeder who selected the most useful traits" (Adrian Desmond, James Moore and Janet Browne for DNB).  

Before moving to Down House, Darwin wrote a 35-page sketch of his evolutionary theory, completed in June 1842. By February 1844 he had converted this into a coherent 231-page essay. There was then a considerable break until late in 1854 when, having finished his barnacle volumes, Darwin returned to collating his notes on species.   On 14 May 1856, after consulting Charles Lyell, Darwin began writing an extended treatise aimed at his peers. By March 1858 "Natural Selection" was two thirds complete at 250,000 words, the whole book projected to run to three volumes. Then in June 1858 Darwin received a letter about evolution from Alfred Russell Wallace, who had arrived at similar conclusions independently. This led to papers on the subject by both scientists being read to the Linnean Society of London on 1 July. To stay ahead of the field Darwin had now to publish more rapidly. Urged on by Hooker, he wrote an "abstract" of "Natural Selection," finishing a manuscript of 155,000 words in April 1859. "The book, stripped  of references and academic paraphernalia, was aimed not at the specialists, but directly at the reading public."  

Finally published as "On The Origin of Species" on 24 November 1859 in a print run of 1250 copies, it expounded a theory of evolution that was recognisably superior and of infinitely greater impact than all previous hypotheses explaining biological diversity.  

Frederick Whitting came up to King's a Scholar in 1854, he was Second Bursar 1869-1872, First Bursar 1872-92, Senior Proctor in 1874, Vice-Provost 1889-1909 and Secretary of the University Financial Board 1883-1904.

George Salt, entomologist, was elected a Fellow of King's College in 1933 and became a University Lecturer in the Zoology Department in 1937. During the Second World War, he worked at Cambridge for the Ministry of Agriculture on the control of wire worms. He became Lay Dean of King's 1939-45, and from 1945-51 he was a Tutor for Advanced Students. He took a period of leave in East Africa in 1948-49 to collect an analyse insects. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1956. Catalogued by Kate Hunter

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