London, John Murray, 1868, PRESENTATION COPY
2 vols, 8vo (221 x 138 mm), pp viii 411 , with 4 pp inserted advertisements dated December 1866 (see below); viii, 486, [2, publisher’s advertisements, dated February 1868] with the same 4 pp inserted advertisements as in vol I; illustrations in the text; original green cloth (as described by Freeman), a fine, clean, bright copy.
First edition, first issues of both volumes, presentation copy to the geologist Sir Joseph Prestwich (see below) with an inserted note on Down Railway Station stationery: ‘Dec 24 With Mr. C. Darwins compliments & thanks’ in Darwin’s hand.
This work is ‘the only section of Darwin’s big book on the origin of species which was printed in his lifetime and corresponding to its first two intended chapters’ (Freeman). This work is notable not only for Darwin’s prodigious amassing of facts concerning artificial selection of traits to demonstrate an analogy for natural selection. It also advances his hypothesis of pangenesis and gemmules, as the agents of the inheritance of characteristics. The Variation ‘contained his hypothesis of pangenesis, by means of which Darwin tried to frame an explanation of hereditary resemblance, inheritance of acquired characters, atavism, and regeneration. It was a brave attempt to account for a number of phenomena which were beyond the bounds of scientific knowledge in his day, such as fertilization by the union of sperm with egg, the mechanism of chromosomal inheritance, and the development of the embryo by successive cell division. His hypothesis of pangenesis could not therefore give a permanently acceptable account of the multitude of phenomena it was designed to explain. It was, however, a point of departure for particulate theories of inheritance in the latter nineteenth century’ (DSB).
The first issue differs substantially from the second issue, which in fact is more a second edition, with major revisions to the text. The first issue was published in January, the second in February 1868. The two issues have considerable textual differences, but the easiest way to distinguish them is by the errata listed on p vi of vol I and viii of vol II: in the first issue five errata are listed in six lines in vol I and nine in seven lines in vol II, whereas in the second a single erratum is listed in vol I only. The publisher’s binding also differs, the spines of the first having a one-line imprint, those of the second normally having a two-line imprint.
Provenance: Presentation note in Darwin’s hand ‘With Mr C. Darwin’s compliments & Thanks’ dated December 24 loosely inserted in vol I (on ‘Down, Beckenham, Kent – Railway Station, Orpington. S. E. R.’ stationery); bookplate of Sir Joseph Prestwich in both volumes. Prestwich (1812–1896) was President of the Geological Society of London (1870–2) and Professor of Geology at Oxford (1874–88). He was also the recipient of a presentation copy of the first edition of the Origin. ‘Prestwich had written important papers on the geology of the coalfields of Shropshire and on the water-bearing strata of the south of England. In 1859 and 1860, he turned his attention to a study of the flint implements found in France and England and their significance for the question of the antiquity of man’ (Darwin Correspondence Project online). Quentin Keynes (1921–2003), great-grandson of Charles Darwin and notable collector of Darwin and Darwiniana.
There are two inserted leaves in both volumes: ‘Illustrated Charts of Natural History’ and ‘Practical Class Examination Mineralogy and Geology by J. Tennant’, the latter dated December 1866, both advertising mineralogical works published by Tennant. These were probably added by Prestwich. The December 24 date of Darwin’s note means he had copies in hand by the end of 1867 (or at least of vol I) although the work was not officially available until January 30 of the following year due to delay in preparing the index.
Freeman 877; Norman 597