- On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. John Murray, 1859
8vo (7 7/8 x 4 7/8 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, 1/8 inch tear in top edge of upper cover.
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"the most important single work in science" (Dibner, Heralds of Science), which still remains a foundational pillar of modern scientific endeavour 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 epicentre of the natural world, just as Copernicus had cast out the earth from the centre 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 ... [I]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 1250 print-run was oversubscribed and caused an immediate sensation, requiring Murray to initiate a reprint almost immediately after publication.
A handsome copy.