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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
£2,250.00
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"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.

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Description

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.

Illustrations

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.

Condition

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.

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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.

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