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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: 144126
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The first appearance of the word "evolution" in Darwin's works

First edition, first issue of both volumes; a very nice, clean copy in the original cloth. Here the word "evolution" appears for the first time in any of Darwin's works, on page 2 of the first volume, 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). "In discussing man's ancestry Darwin did not claim that man was directly descended from apes as we know them today, but stated simply that the extinct ancestors of Homo sapiens would have to be classified among the primates; however, this statement, as misinterpreted by the popular press, caused a furore second only to that raised by the Origin" (Norman).

The first issue can be distinguished from the second by a number of important textual differences. The first issue of volume I is identified through the appearance of "transmitted" as the first word of page 297; volume II has the printer's note on the half-title leaf verso, the errata on the title leaf verso, and a tipped-in "Postscript" (pp. ix-x) referring to errors which were entirely reset for the second issue.

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


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


Spine ends and corners bumped and lightly worn, cloth bright, spines unfaded, with just a few marks and shallow knocks to board edges, inner hinges tender, contents crisp and notably clean, with foxing to the endpapers only. A very good and unsophisticated copy indeed.


Freeman 937; Garrison & Morton 170; Norman 599.


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