Lot 91
  • 91

Watson, James Dewey & Francis Harry Compton Crick

50,000 - 70,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • paper
"Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids. A Structure of Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid." [With:] Maurice H.F. Wilkins, Alexander R. Stokes & Herbert R. Wilson, "Molecular Structure of Deoxypentose Nucleic Acids." [With:] Rosalind E. Franklin & R.G. Gosling, "Molecular Configuration in Sodium Thymonucleate." Offprint from Nature, vol. 171, pp. 737 - 741, April 25, 1953. London: Fisher, Knight & Co. Ltd., for Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1953

8vo (8 1/4 x 5 1/2 in.; 210 x 140 mm.), 13 [1] pp. consisting of one stapled quire with a final leaf tipped onto the gutter margin as issued, 2 half-tone and 2 line illustrations. Modern dark-blue half morocco, gold-ruled clamshell case.


Richard Green (his sale, Christie's NY, 17 June 2008, lot 334)


Grolier Medicine 99; Dibner, Heralds of Science (2nd ed.), 200

Catalogue Note

First edition of the identification of the double helix structure of DNA, the most important scientific discovery of the 20th century, in the rare three-paper offprint issue, signed by Watson, Crick, Wilkins and Stokes.

In Great Britain, research into DNA was conducted by Watson and Crick at the Cavendish Laboratories, Cambridge, and by Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin at King's College, London. When the two teams combined the results of their studies, it was clear that the X-ray photographs of the London team provided the evidence to support the hypothetical "double helix" structure proposed by the Cambridge team. Watson, Crick and Wilkins were jointly awarded the Noble Prize in 1962.

Two offprint issues appeared: one reprinted only the Watson and Crick paper, while the other reprinted the three papers that offered a full explanation of the background to the discovery. For the three-paper offprint issue, the text of the three papers was partially reset, printed as a single column on a small octavo page (unlike the journal issue which appeared in 2 columns), and repaginated [1] - [14]. The journal was set in Monotype and an electrotype plate was made from the standing type, to be printed from the plate not the type. The offprint however, was printed from the standing type, and the diagram of the double helix is printed at the head of page 2, while in the journal it was embedded in the text.

This copy is signed by Watson and Crick at the top. The inscription reads: "With compliments of Maurice Wilkins [in his hand] + Alec R Stokes [in his hand]."  As is the case with most offprints, the print run was small; although it is difficult to discover the exact number of copies printed, this issue is considerably rarer than the single-paper issue. Signed copies are even rarer with three (including the present copy) signed by four or more of the authors appearing at auction since 1975.