Our shops are open and we are processing online, telephone and email orders as normal

DARWIN, Erasmus.

The Poetical Works.

Containing The Botanic Garden, in Two Parts, and The Temple of Nature. With Philosophical Notes and Plates.

London: J. Johnson, 1806 Stock Code: 141677
Reserve Ask us a question

"a final exuberant flowering of Enlightenment experiment and optimism"

First edition of this posthumous collection placing Darwin's exuberant and eccentric inquiry into the Linnaean system in rhyming couplets alongside his poetic speculations on evolution, the whole much enlivened by numerous plates including a number by Blake and Fuseli. A wide-margined, ?large paper copy in a handsome Regency binding from the library of the 3rd marquess of Londonderry.

Darwin's reputation declined rapidly at the turn of the nineteenth century, attacked as a crank, certainly an atheist, and perhaps a spy, and has never really recovered. In her argument for a revival, Jenny Uglow, historian of the Lunar society, one of the three learned societies of which Darwin was a founder member, speaks vividly in favour of the work of this "polymathic genius"; "Arching between two eras, it was a final exuberant flowering of Enlightenment experiment and optimism but also a glittering treasure trove of images and ideas for the coming Romantic generation, plundered by Shelley, Coleridge, Wordsworth. Four thousand lines of rhyming couplets humming above thickets of footnotes, with engravings by Blake, Fuseli and others... With wit and sly humour it mixed poetry, science and startling radical notions: a sheaf of "Additional Notes" explored everything from meteors to Wedgwood's Portland vase, from clouds and coal to shell-fish and steam-engines. Most disturbing of all to contemporaries was the hint of a new theory of biological evolution - 50 years before his grandson Charles published Origin of Species" ("Sexing the Plants", the Guardian, 21/09/2002). Uncommon in such fine and complete state.

Confused? Read our glossary


3 volumes octavo (245 x 146 mm). Contemporary calf, title direct to spines, low bands with fine rope-twist roll, framed by foliate roll in blind, foliate lozenges to compartments, fine rope-twist roll to board edges, block edges sprinkled sepia.


Engraved frontispiece to each volume, additional portrait frontispiece to volume I, and 23 other plates in all - 5 of them engraved by Blake - one of them folding, 11 hand-coloured, one of these double-page, and a vignette to the text of volume II.


A little light shelf-wear, spine a touch spotty, some browning of and offsetting from the plates as usual, text-block of volume I variably browned, but overall a very good, a pretty set.


With the exception of framed items*, Peter Harrington offers free delivery on all UK orders of rare books, maps and prints placed through this website. Delivery to USA and the rest of the world is similarly free for orders over £200.

View Full Delivery Details



Established in 1969, Peter Harrington is one of the leading rare book firms in the world. It is a proud member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association – along with ILAB, the PBFA and Lapada – and from shops in Mayfair and Chelsea, London, sells rare books, prints and ephemera to customers across the world.

Email: mail@peterharrington.co.uk

Tel: +44 (0)20 7591 0220

ABA Antiquarian Bookseller Association ILAB International League of Antiquarian Booksellers LAPADA The Association of Art and Anatique Dealers PBFA Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association

Our Guarantee Page

Ask us a question


Contact us with details of the book you are interested in or selling and we will contact you

Sell Old Books Help me find a book