Presentation Copy of the First Edition of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.
Item Number: 7415
London: John Murray, 1859.
First edition. Octavo, original publisher’s green cloth. In near fine condition with a short tear to cloth at bottom of upper joint, a near fine example with the spine gilt very bright. Of the first edition of 1,250 copies, 58 were distributed by Murray for review, promotion, and presentation, and Darwin reported that the balance was sold out on the first day of publication. The presentation copies likely number less than 30. Inscribed in a secretarial hand, “Dr. Buist Bombay from the author.” Dr. George Buist, after taking degrees at St. Andrews and the University of Edinburgh, left Scotland for a journalistic posting in India, where his scientific interests led him to serve as Secretary to the Bombay Geographical Society. (This was the same role as Darwin for the London Geographical Society and both men were fellows of the Royal Society). Housed in a custom full morocco clamshell box.
Darwin “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” (PMM 344). “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. As he himself expected, Darwin’s theory became, and continues to be in some circles, the object of intense controversy” (American Philosophical Society). “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” (PMM). Darwin wrote in his diary that all 1250 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.