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

Collecting Darwin

When I was forty years old, having spent the most of the previous thirty-five years in acquiring a scientific education, I began a systematic program of re-education.  The reading of World History, philosophy, literature, some graphic arts, and science all interested me and have continued to be an enjoyable and fruitful part of my life over the last thirty years.  During this latter time it became evident that rare, original ideas changing the way mankind thought and lived were the most fascinating.  Charles Darwin and evolution soon became my favorite man and subject.

This love affair of Darwin was a gradual process, but one that grew in importance as I recognized the extent of "The Theory" and its effects on all aspects of society - not just science, but religion, economics, ethics, government, and literature. The man himself is easy to admire and respect, a quiet, reserved, timid, thorough, hard working, humane, brilliant scholar who concerned himself with the feelings and motions not only of his family, but friends and peers as well. His burial in Westminster Abbey indicates a lack of estrangement from the Church over his gradually developing agnosticism.

Interest in Darwin leads to "before, with, and after". Grandfather Erasmus, the Lunar Society, Wedgwoods, Romantic poets, cousins, and the entire coterie lead to even wider interests.  Natural Theology, Chambers, Bishop Ussher, Malthus, Cuvier, Lyell, and Lamarck all became alive as I pursued these "giants on whose shoulders" Darwin stood. Colleagues such as T. H. Huxley, Spencer, Agassiz, Haeckel, Gray, LeConte, and others added to my knowledge.

One would be greatly amiss not to refer to Alfred Russel Wallace. Although a co-discoverer of "The Theory," he was always diffident towards Darwin even when disagreeing with him. A long, worthwhile, interesting life has made him one of the unrecognized gentlemen scholars.

In the twentieth century interest in Darwin and evolution has increased with the advent of modern genetics and wider interest in archeology, ecology, anthropology, eugenics, catastrophism and other scientific endeavors. The social, ethical, historical, literary, and legal interests are all pursued with continued enthusiasm. Darwinism has not only enriched the culture of European and American societies, but reaches into the far corners of the world.

Some twenty or so years ago I began to collect Darwiniana. At first it was just Darwin, but later my collecting focus enlarged to include many of the people noted above. As these editions are primarily of English origin I have had the delightful experience of dealing with London rare booksellers as well as rare booksellers in the United States. It has been a joyful endeavor, one that I am delighted to share with others. I would not have missed it for the world.

C. Warren Irvin, Jr
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