One of Darwin's stunned reactions to Wallace’s manuscript was: 'I never saw a more striking coincidence.' He turned to friends Charles Lyell and Joseph Hooker in an effort to establish priority as well as remain fair and gentlemanly towards Wallace. The result: a joint reading at the Linnean Society, which occurred on 1 July 1858. Darwin and Wallace were both absent, and only 25 members were present to hear about this revolutionary theory. On display is the 1859 Linnean Society printing of the Darwin-Wallace document.
Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace, 'On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection', Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society. Zoology. Vol. III. London: Longman, Brown, Green, et al., 1859. Leith Storage 3DU6 L
Throughout most of his life, Darwin suffered from painful flatulence, insomnia, nausea, headaches, and spells of faintness. Indeed, he was too sick to be on hand in London when the first copies of Origin were sold, or to attend the famous debate between Thomas Huxley and Bishop Samuel Wilberforce on 30 June 1860. This photograph was taken in 1860, when he was 51.
Photograph of Charles Darwin in 1860, aged 51
Darwin’s Origin of Species was published on 24 November 1859, and in the third chapter ‘Struggle for Existence’ Darwin stated the general principles briefly: ‘one general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings – namely, multiple, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.’ The book’s appearance ‘marked a turning point, not only in the history of science, but in the history of ideas in general’ (Dictionary of Scientific Biography). Of the 1,250 first edition copies printed, some 1,170 were sold immediately to the book-trade. This Sotheran catalogue gives an asking price in 2008 for a rare first edition.
Henry Sotheran Ltd, Charles Darwin and his Antecedents, Associates and Antagonists. London: Sotheran, 2008. Special Collections Catalogue Collection
Special Collections is fortunate to have the third edition of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, to give its full title. The third edition contained Darwin’s extensive alterations, and an expanded historical sketch written to satisfy complaints that he had not sufficiently considered his predecessors in the general theory of evolution. It appeared in April 1861, in a run of 2,000. Origin was dedicated to Lyell.
Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. London: John Murray, 1861. Special Collections QH 365 02