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Lot #4010
Charles Darwin Autograph Letter Signed on 'On the Origin of Species' and 'Voyage of the Beagle'

Darwin comments on his influential works: "I sh'd think my Journal would give better extracts on the habits of animals than the 'Origin'"

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Darwin comments on his influential works: "I sh'd think my Journal would give better extracts on the habits of animals than the 'Origin'"

ALS signed “C. Darwin,” one page, 5 x 8, March 11, [no year but circa 1862–69]. Handwritten letter to a gentleman, granting permission to quote liberally from his famous works. In full: "You are most entirely welcome to insert anything from any of my works in your Magazine. I sh'd think my Journal would give better extracts on the habits of animals than the 'Origin.'" In fine condition.

In this interesting autograph letter by Charles Darwin, the great evolutionary thinker suggests that his first book, 'Journal of Researches' (now known as 'Voyage of the Beagle'), may be a better resource for quotes on the habits of animals than his more famous work on evolution, 'On the Origin of Species.' First published in 1839 as his 'Journal and Remarks,' the work covers Darwin's part in the second survey expedition of the ship HMS Beagle: it is a vivid travel memoir as well as a detailed scientific field journal covering biology, geology, and anthropology. Its initial publication brought Darwin considerable fame and respect, and in 1845 he released an extensively revised edition incorporating his developing ideas on evolution, renaming it the 'Journal of Researches.' Writing of the Galápagos finches with their gradations in size of beaks, Darwin observed: 'One might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends.'

Darwin further refined and developed these evolutionary ideas for his massively influential 'On the Origin of Species,' which introduced the idea that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. The book was a sensation, wildly exceeding the expectations of either Darwin or his publisher. Widely considered 'the most important biological book ever written,' Darwin's work brought evolutionary thought to the masses and rightfully posited the idea of natural selection as its driving force.

That Darwin comments on both of these incredibly important scientific books in a single letter is absolutely remarkable. The Darwin Correspondence Project records this as “Letter no. 13877F,” noting that the year is established by the form of the address, which Darwin used from May 1861 to April 1869.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Remarkable Rarities
  • Dates: #707 - Ended February 22, 2024





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