The C. Warren Irvin, Jr., Collection
of Charles Darwin and Darwiniana

Overview | Warren Irvin on Collecting Darwin | Boyhood and Edinburgh | Cambridge | The Voyage of the Beagle | Zoology and Botany | Geology | Vestiges and Lamarckianism | Marine Biology and the 1850s | The Origin of Species | After the Origin | After Darwin

Darwin after the Origin --
Orchids, Plants, Worms, and Man


Charles Darwin,
On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing.
London: J. Murray, 1862. Original plum-colored cloth.

Although the debate over his Origin of Species had moved rapidly to debating the origin of man, Darwin himself did not immediately participate. He spent the next decade producing a series of books detailing his evidence for various aspects of the theory. He wished, he wrote to his publisher in 1861, to "show that I have worked hard at details." Much of this material was based on research or drafts for the much bigger book on the theory of species that he had to set aside in June 1858. His orchid book was a kind of Bridgewater Treatise demonstrating the functional origins of apparently useless beauty, but explaining it through natural selection rather than design.

Hardwicke's science-gossip : an illustrated medium of interchange and gossip for students and lovers of nature. [Vol. 1]
London: Robert Hardwicke, 1866.

The two brief Darwin items shown here, from May 1865, represent an aspect of Darwin's involvement in Victorian science that is often neglected--his frequent brief letters, notes or editorial mentions in popular weeklies such as the Gardener's Chronicle or, as here, the aptly named Science Gossip, run by the publisher of Huxley's lectures for working men.

Charles Darwin, 
The movements and habits of climbing plants.
London: John Murray, 1875.

In 1858, when Asa Gray of Harvard sent some seeds to Darwin, he became so fascinated with the "revolving movements of the tendrils and stems" that he started a whole sub-study on climbing plants. This essay had first appeared in the Journal of the Linnean Society in 1865, with the same 188-page typesetting issued successively as offprint, pamphlet, and cased book. Shown here is the first Murray edition, issued in 1875.

Charles Darwin,
The variation of animals and plants under domestication.
2 vols. London: John Murray, 1868. First edition, first issue.

These two substantial volumes represent only the first two chapters from the larger study of species Darwin had been drafting before he wrote the Origin. It includes, along with his study of variation in pigeons and plants his provisional theory of "pangenesis," an attempt to explore the causes of variant forms, not merely their survival or selection.

Charles Darwin, 
The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. 2 vols. London: John Murray, 1871. First edition, first issue.

It was more than a decade after the Origin that Darwin at last took up the application of natural selection to the emergence of the human species. While some sections simply deal with parallels between man and animals (as in the illustrations of embryos shown here), Darwin also had the benefit of the debates that already under way, and he included discussions of how his theory of natural selection would deal with such marks of humanity as mankind's linguistic, mental, aesthetic and moral capacities.

Charles Darwin,
The expression of the emotions in man and animals.
London: John Murray, 1872. First edition, second issue.

Many years before, in the Plinian Society in Edinburgh, Darwin had heard his radical friend Browne attack Charles Bell's pious study, The anatomy and physiology of expression, which claimed that humans had were unique in their capacity for expressing their feelings through facial muscles. This sledgehammer of a book refutes the old natural-theological position, not only through argument, but by its inclusion of expensive foldout heliotype illustrations. It led to a new field of study, ethology, and was also influential with psychologists.


The four books grouped here show Darwin's continuing activity in his later years, in both writing and research, and the continuing interest of the public in what he wrote. By the 1870s, his research program had developed its own momentum as he sought to fill out his original sketch of species differentiation.

Charles Darwin, 
Insectivorous plants.
London: John Murray, 1875.

The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom.
London: John Murray, 1876.

The different forms of flowers on plants of the same species. 
London: John Murray, 1877.

The power of movement in plants.
London: John Murray, 1880.

Charles Darwin, 
The formation of vegetable mould : through the action of worms, with observations on their habits.
London: John Murray, 1881.

Darwin's last book was a reworking of one of his earliest publications, a report to the Geological Society in 1838 following up a hint from a Wedgewood uncle about the way the layer of lime placed on farmland appears in later years as a distinct stratum inches below the soil surface. Often dismissed as a minor Darwin book, it was surprisingly popular with general readers. The chapter displayed here shows a sly sense of humour, in describing how the humble earthworm will over time appear to bury the ruins of Romano-British basicicas, the natural processes of the animal world conquering delapidated traditional religious structures.

Charles Darwin as Victorian sage

This fine engraving of Darwin in later life, from the Irvin Collection, was originally purchased in Paris in 1908 by Andrew Charles Moore (1866-1928), professor of biology, dean and twice acting president at South Carolina. Darwin first grew the familiar white beard in 1866.

Memorializing Darwin
Sir Francis Darwin, 1848-1925, ed.,
The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. 3 vols. London: John Murray, 1887.

Darwin had seldom been well physically since he returned from the voyage with the Beagle. He died on April 19th, 1882, aged only 73, and perhaps surprisingly was buried in Westminster Abbey. This official biography, edited by Darwin's son soon after his death, relies heavily on Darwin's own letters. This copy came from the library of the late Morse Peckham, editor of the great centenary edition of Darwin's Origin, and subsequently Professor of English & Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina.

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