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DARWIN, Charles.

The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex.

In Two Volumes. With Illustrations.

London: John Murray, 1871 Stock Code: 142082
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The evolution of humans, from the library of Darwin's fellow member of the Geological Society

First edition, first issue of both volumes (vol. I with "transmitted" on p. 297; vol. II with errata on the verso of the title leaf). Here the word "evolution" appears for the first time in any of Darwin's works, preceding its appearance in the sixth edition of The Origin of Species the following year.

Darwin had hoped that one of his supporters might tackle the thorny question of human evolution, but was forced to face the logic of his own theory himself. Darwin deviated from his ostensible subject of mankind to describe sexual selection in the animal kingdom, enabling him to answer those who saw peacock tails as an expression of divine aesthetics. Darwin also set out a definite family tree for humans, tracing their affinity with the Old World monkeys, and laid out his views on the evolutionary origins of morality and religion. "The Descent, understood by Darwin as a sequel to the Origin, was written with a maturity and depth of learning that marked Darwin's status as an élite gentleman of science" (ODNB).

This was the copy of Darwin's fellow member of the Geological Society, Charles Henry Lardner Woodd (1821-1893), with whom he sometimes corresponded (see for example Darwin's letter of 4 March 1850, commenting on Wood's geological paper - Darwin Correspondence Project Letter no. 1307). Woodd was elected a fellow of the Geological Society in 1846; Darwin had become a fellow in 1836. Wood's dated ownership signature is on each title page, which is particularly desirable, as the two volumes of Descent of Man are frequently found paired up by collectors and dealers.

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2 volumes, octavo. Original green cloth, spines lettered in gilt, panels blocked to covers in blind, green endpapers.


With black and white illustrations in text; 16 pp. advertisements in each dated January 1871.


Some minor pencilled annotations to text. Light wear and bumping at peripheries, lettering on spine of vol. II faded but that of vol. I bright, slight rubbing, inner hinges expertly repaired, light foxing around initial and final leaves and to advertisements else contents generally clean, offset discolouration to vol. I p. 244-245. A very good copy.


Freeman 937.


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