Darwin had always been fascinated by insectivorous plants, especially the ways in which they lured and captured their prey. With an array of Venus fly-traps, he spent hours experimenting, dropping all sorts of objects – dead flies, wood, cotton wool – into their waiting ‘mouths’. Insectivorous Plants was the result, a work that did not deal with apes and religious dissent. Darwin was no draughtsman, so he had his sons George and Francis help with the illustrations.
Charles Darwin, Insectivorous Plants. London: John Murray, 1875. Science F3D
Darwin omitted ‘Man’ in his Origin of Species, something he admitted to Wallace: ‘I think I shall avoid the whole subject, as so surrounded with prejudices, though I fully admit that it is the highest and most interesting problem for the naturalist.’ He made amends in Descent of Man, published in 1871. In it, he expounded his theory on sexual selection and discussed the link between human and ape lineage. His simple statement that the extinct ancestors of Homo sapiens would have to be classified among the primates created a furore matched only by his Origin of Species.
____, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. Vol. I and II. London: John Murray, 1871. Medical QH 365 D228d
Darwin was a prolific letter-writer, and he put himself under severe pressure with his personal publication schedule. Every year, from 1860 onwards, he published at least one book, sometimes two, either a new title or a revised edition. Almost all of his 21 titles were bound in green by John Murray, his publisher. The photograph of the Jeremy Norman Darwin Collection, which came on the market in late 1992, gives an excellent idea of the physicality of Darwin’s entire canon.
Sotheby's, Darwin's Century: The Jeremy Norman Collection of Rare Books, Manuscripts and Portraits concerning the Theory of Evolution in the Nineteenth Century, London, Friday 11 December 1992. Private Collection