Autograph letter signed. WITH: On the Origin of Species

Charles DARWIN

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Item#: 123342 price:$125,000.00

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DARWIN, Charles. Autograph letter signed. WITH: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. Kent, United Kingdom, November 24, [1869] and New York: D. Appleton, 1870. Single sheet of unlined paper, measuring 5 by 8 inches folded; pp. 4. Housed in a custom cloth portfolio. WITH: Octavo, original purple cloth. Housed together in a custom clamshell box. $125,000.

Very rare and desirable signed autograph letter from Charles Darwin to American publisher D. Appleton's London agent, Charles Layton, agreeing to a second American edition of the Origin of Species, with a slightly raised price, but requiring that Appleton also commit to an American edition of The Descent of Man. Accompanied by the second American edition of Origin of Species in original cloth.

The letter, written entirely in Darwin's hand and dated "Nov. 24th. Beckenham [Kent]," reads in full: "Dear Sir, I am much obliged by your note. You say that Messrs. Appleton 'would also like to have a set of stereotyped plates of new edit of Origin of Species on same terms.' I am not sure that I understand this, for I have not permitted the Origin to be stereotyped in England. If it means that Messrs. Appleton will print a new edition in Stereotype Plates (or in common type which would be much preferable) I gladly agree to his terms for this edition & for my next book. I have long earnestly wished for a new edition of the Origin in the United States, as it is 92 pages longer than the 2nd edition, besides endless small though important corrections. I feel sure that the continued large sale of this book in England Germany & France has depended on my keeping up each edition to the existing standard of science. I hope I am right in supposing that Messrs. Appleton are willing to print in some form a new edition; for though unwilling to act in a disobliging manner toward them I had resolved soon to write to Professor Asa Gray to ask him to find some publisher who would print the new edition of the Origin, on condition of my supplying him with the sheets of my new book as they printed & which book will probably have a large sale. Will you be so kind as to let me hear soon how the case stands; & I should like in case the answer is favourable to send in M.S. half a dozen small corrections for the Origin. I must inform you that although Mr Murray has inserted a notice of my new book, I do not suppose it will be printed for nearly a year, although a considerable portion is ready for the press. Dear Sir, yours faithfully, Ch. Darwin. You will understand that I cannot agree with Mr Appleton about my new book, unless he is willing to print a new edit of Origin. The price of the latter might fairly be raised a little; as Mr Murray has by 1s. & it shd be advertised as largely added to & corrected."

According to the Darwin Correspondent Project at Cambridge, the recipient of this letter was Charles Layton, the American publisher D. Appleton's London agent. This letter refers to details regarding the publication of a new American edition of the Origin of Species. Darwin begins by clarifying that fact, as the proposal was for a stereotyped American edition as Darwin had been resistant to stereotyping his work in England. Darwin may have seen the first U.S. edition, published in 1860 from stereotypes of the British second edition, and was aware of the decline in quality compared to conventional typesetting. In England, Darwin still wanted the best printing possible, while the overseas printing was of slightly less concern. In letter dated April 1869, Darwin had, in fact, approached Orange, Judd, & Co., who published the American version of Variation, about publishing a new American edition of the Origin. Here, however, Darwin only mentions potential correspondence with Asa Gray, a Harvard botanist with whom Darwin exchanged hundreds of letters. Darwin's fame in America largely rested on Gray's positive review of Origin in The Atlantic and his subsequent pro-evolution debates with zoologist Louis Agassiz, which Gray won handily. Darwin's decision to mention Gray here was likely meant to emphasize Darwin's influence in the American scientific community and to underline the scientific prominence of Darwin's American supporters. This letter indicates Darwin's willingness to go along with Appleton publication proposal despite that inquiry, for both this work and for his upcoming book, The Descent of Man. The Murray notice that Darwin refers to was an advance advertisement for Descent published in October of 1869. Descent, delayed as Darwin indicates, was not actually published until early in 1871. Appleton managed to publish the second U.S. edition, based on a corrected and expanded version of the fifth English edition, by 1870, before their publication of Descent in 1871. Darwin kept a proprietorial hand on all of his work: other editions were also receiving tweaks at the same time he was considering the Appleton proposal. For instance, Darwin mentions sending several corrections to the fifth English edition of Origin to improve its upcoming publication in French and German.

This letter is accompanied by the second American edition of On the Origin of Species, the subject of the letter. "This, the most important single work in science, brought man to his true place in nature" (Heralds of Science 199). Darwin "was intent upon carrying Lyell's demonstration of the uniformity of natural causes over into the organic world… In accomplishing this Darwin not only drew an entirely new picture of the workings of organic nature; he revolutionized our methods of thinking and our outlook on the natural order of things. The recognition that constant change is the order of the universe had been finally established and a vast step forward in the uniformity of nature had been taken" (PMM 344). Excerpts of this letter were published in Darwin's Correspondence, Volume 17. The book is labeled "Fifth Edition, With Additions And Corrections" on the title page, alluding to the fifth British edition as explained above. The first American edition was published in 1860, using the British text, and was subsequently revised over a number of printings not technically considered editions. Thus, this publication is generally known as the second American edition. Freeman 390. See Horblit, 23b; Dibner, 199; PMM 344b. Contemporary owner signature and owner stamps (including on half title and title page) of author and Egyptologist Orlando P. Schmidt, later Smith.

Tiny marginal chip to corner, original mailing creases to about-fine letter. Book extremely good, with toning to cloth and wear to spine ends. Fascinating and highly desirable.

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