On the Origin of Species (First Edition) by Charles Darwin



2015-06-26 10:42:49

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life is a scientific work by English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882). The first edition was published on 24th November 1859 by John Murray. Background

On the Origin of Species came about after an expedition on the HMS Beagle, which Darwin attended as a geologist and naturalist in 1831. Discovering fossils and observing that species might not be fixed as was generally believed, the theory of natural selection took seed in his mind. While several people before Charles Darwin had considered the notion of evolution, as he himself attested tracing them back to Aristotle, Darwin was the first to publish a work on the subject that so perfectly captured people’s imaginations, and harmonised with the atmosphere of the zeitgeist.

It became available at a time when science was emerging as a gentlemanly pursuit, was considered the manifestation of modern progression, and sometimes in direct opposition to religion. Darwin in fact was himself religious, and saw evolution as yet another manifestation of the beauty of God’s creation, but his work has ever been used to spearhead atheist movements and demonstrate how the world developed without the need for a creator.

The decade following the publication of On the Origin was witness to an intensive paradigm shift, as previously accepted norms and evolution and ‘Darwinism’ strained to come to terms with each other. By the 1870s, the scientific community, and to some extent the general public, had accepted his theory of natural selection producing evolution as fact. On the Origin of Species was an extremely controversial work at the time, and still is to this day. It is without doubt one of the most influential and significant books ever to have been written.

Subject matter

This work covers variation in plants and animals under domestication such as plant breeding, and in nature. It describes the struggle for existence, natural selection and divergence. It discusses variation and the puzzle of inherited qualities. It then goes on to address potential objections to the theory, citing examples in nature throughout from Darwin’s extensive studies and personal observations.

It discusses geology and fossils as providing a perfect record of what Darwin describes, and discusses types of classification of species based on resemblances. Darwin concluded that he hoped his theory might produce some changes in natural history sciences. It is considered to be the foundation of the biological theory of evolution, a theory which for the first time explained the progress and development of the planet.


Charles Darwin is chiefly remembered for On the Origin of Species, the work that made his name and for many, identified him as one of history’s greatest scientists.

See main article: Charles Darwin rare books and memorabilia

Notable auction sales and collecting tips

Original first edition copies of On the Origin of Species are extremely collectible, due to its importance and the controversy surrounding it.

First editions have been sold by Christie’s in Paris for €117,500 ($155,615, £95,920) in June 2004, Christie's New York for $194,500 in June 2008, and Sothebys in New York for $84,000 in June 2006 and $132,000 in April 2005. It is not recommended to restore a first edition, as they are more valuable if they retain their original covers.

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