“I AM NOT INSENSIBLE TO THE GREAT PROBLEM OF EVOLUTION”: T.H. HUXLEY’S TWO FAMOUS MANUALS ON VERTEBRATES AND INVERTEBRATES, 1871 AND 1877
HUXLEY, Thomas Henry. A Manual of the Anatomy of Vertebrated Animals. WITH: A Manual of the Anatomy of Invertebrated Animals. London: J. & A. Churchill, 1871; 1877. Two volumes. Thick octavo, original brown and oxblood cloths rebacked with original spines laid down. $1100.
First editions of Huxley’s companion works on the anatomy of animals.
Known primarily as the protagonist of evolution in the controversies immediately following the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species late in 1859, zoologist Huxley studied and wrote on a wide range of subjects, including education, philosophy, evolution and religion. “In 1863 he delivered a course of lectures at the College of Surgeons ‘On the Classification of Animals,’ and another ‘On the Vertebrate Skull.’ Other courses ‘On the Comparative Anatomy of Vertebrates’ followed, and a condensed summary of these was published as a Manual of the Anatomy of Vertebrated Animals. The scrupulous care with which he endeavored to verify by actual observation every statement made in his lectures rendered the labor of preparation very great. Sir William Flower describes the way in which he would spend long evenings at the College of Surgeons, dissecting animals available among the stores, or making rapid notes and drawings, after a day’s work in Jermyn Street. The consequences were twofold; the vivid impression of his own recent experience was communicated to his hearers, and the work of preparation became at once an incentive to further research and a means of pursuing it” (DNB). His “further research” led him eventually to the study of fish and the different ways in which fish jaws are suspended from their skulls. Based on these differences in jaw suspensions he divided all fishes into three categories. In one category the method of suspension is identical with that found in amphibians and higher vertebrates. The hypothesis that this category of fishes resembles the ancestors of air-breathing forms suggested itself to him at once. “Although this was clearly present in Huxley’s mind, he was careful to confine himself to a statement of demonstrable structural resemblance, which must remain true, whatever hypothesis of its origin may ultimately be found… Darwin had believed that a fuller knowledge of animal development might reveal the ancestral history of all the great groups of animals, at least in its main outlines. This hope was of service as a stimulus to research, but the attempt to interpret the phenomena observed led to speculations which were often fanciful and always incapable of verification. Huxley was keenly sensible of the danger attending the use of a hypothetical explanation, leading to conclusions which cannot be experimentally tested, and he carefully avoided it… In the preface to the Manual of the Anatomy of Invertebrated Animals (the second book being offered here) he says: ‘I have abstained from discussing questions of etiology, not because I underestimate their importance, or am insensible to the interest of the great problem of Evolution, but because, to my mind, the growing tendency to mix up etiological speculations with morphological generalizations will, if unchecked, throw Biology into confusion.’ The only attempts to trace the ancestry of particular forms which Huxley ever made are based on paleontological evidence, in the few cases in which the evidence seemed to him sufficiently complete” (DNB). Garrison & Morton 338. Early owner signatures, one partially obliterated.
Interiors near-fine, light wear to original cloth, manuscript owner initials on one spine. Overall extremely good condition.