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

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Charles Darwin, 1809-1882
Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visted by H.M.S. Beagle
London, Henry Colburn, 1839.

On 27th December, 1831, H.M.S. Beagle sailed for South America on a surveying voyage. Aboard the ship, in the capacity of naturalist, was the 22-year-old Darwin. It was Darwin's intention to be ordained an Anglican priest, but through the influence of J.S. Henslow, professor of Botany at Cambridge, he was first offered the position on the Beagle. The objections of his father, who believed that the voyage would be injurious to Darwin's character as a clergyman, were overcome by his maternal uncle and future father-in-law, Josiah Wedgwood, son of the great master-potter. The voyage of the Beagle was to be of immense significance in the development of scientific thought. Darwin left England an untried, inexperienced student; he returned five years later an accomplished, brilliant geologist with valuable expertise in zoology and a wide store of observed knowledge. In particular, his observation of South American fossils and of Galapagos birds, coupled with the "general knowledge of the complex interdependence of all living things gained in his wanderings" [DNB] planted in Darwin the seed of the systematic study of the relation of life forms which flowered 20 years later in On the origin of species. Journal of researches is a separate issue of the third volume of Robert Fitzroy's Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty's ships Adventure and Beagle

Charles Darwin, 1809-1882
The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle
London, Smith Elder, 1841.

In addition to the four-volume Narrative of the South American explorations, published in 1839, a more detailed, five-volume scientific account of the explorations was published between 1840 and 1843. Darwin was overall editor of the work, but the different sections, which cover Fossils, Mammals, Birds, Fish and Reptiles were prepared by scientists and naturalists distinguished in these individual fields. The birds, shown here, are drawn and described by the great ornithologist John Gould (1804-1881). This work, purchased by South Carolina College at the time of publication, is now exceedingly rare. 

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Charles Darwin, 1809-1882
The structure and distribution of coral reefs
London, Smith Elder & Co., 1874.

In April 1836 Darwin wrote from Mauritius: "The subject of coral formation has for the last half year, been a point of particular interest to me". Earlier observation, when the Beagle anchored at Keeling Island, convinced him that Lyell's theory of coral reef formation - that reefs are built on the rims of submerged volcanoes - was wrong. He suggested rather that active reefs are found in areas of geological subsidence or elevation: in areas of subsidence coral, which cannot survive below 30 fathoms, builds on the foundation of earlier, dead coral; in areas of elevation the coral spreads outwards, free of the confines of a restricting base. In his Journal, Darwin also suggests that the absence of coral, as in the West Indies, is indicative of geological stability and that coral activity is found only in areas of subsidence or upheaval. This second, revised edition of The structure and distribution of coral reefs was published in 1874. 

Charles Darwin, 1809-1882
On the tendency of species to form varieties
London, Journal of the proceedings of the Linnaean Society; Zoology, 1858.

By 1858 Darwin was convinced that all species develop from previously existing species. He also believed that evolution was determined by natural selection. For various reasons - not least the fear of controversy - he hesitated to publish his work. It was not until 1858, when he received from a Malaya-based naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, a paper on evolution whose contents tallied precisely with his own theory, that he felt the need to publish his work. On July 1, 1858, Wallace's and Darwin's papers were jointly presented to the Linnaean Society. Their publication created little stir. Darwin deduced that "any new view should be explained at considerable length in order to arouse public attention" and began composition of On the origin of species. Its publication, late in the following year, aroused that public attention. 

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Charles Darwin, 1809-1882
On the origin of species by means of natural selection
London, John Murray, 1859.

Lyell's Principles of geology established the principle of the uniformity of natural causes in the formation and shaping of the Earth's surface. Darwin attempted to demonstrate a parallel uniformity in the development of the organic world, through the principle of evolution by natural selection. On the origin of species, one of the most intensely debated books ever published, sets out this theory. Darwin's was the first detailed attempt, after centuries of speculation, to produce a cohesive theory of the successive development of life forms. Though Darwin's work was refined by the work of Mendel and others, and though there is still debate on aspects of the mechanism of evolution, particularly with regard to the role of natural selection, the basics of Darwin's theory are accepted in scientific circles. To minimize controversy, Darwin deliberately omitted the origins of man from On the origin of species. Mention is confined to the single sentence: "Much light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history." 

Charles Darwin, 1809-1882
On the origin of species by means of natural selection
London, John Murray, 1860.

A second edition of On the origin of species went to press in January 1860. Darwin took the opportunity to make corrections and revisions, many of which answer points raised by Charles Lyell. A third edition, prepared in November 1860, was further expanded to clarify ambiguities revealed in reviews of the work and to include a twelve page "historical sketch," outlining the work of Darwin's predecessors. 

Sir Charles Lyell, 1797-1875
The geological evidences of the antiquity of man, with remarks on the origin of species by variation
London, John Murray, 1863.

Though privately Lyell was largely in accord with On the origin of species he balked at open endorsement of the book. Geological evidences of the antiquity of man, Lyell's contribution to the interest and controversy raised by Darwin's work, was published in February 1863. The first twenty chapters summarize current knowledge of prehistoric man and his forbears and discuss the glacial activity of recent eras. Lamarckian and Darwinian evolutionary theory are discussed and contrasted in the final chapters, as is the possibility that man, as the product of a separate, divine creation, may be excepted from evolutionary theory. Typically, the cautious Lyell resists endorsement of any theory, leaving his readers to draw their own conclusions. Darwin was deeply disappointed by what he saw as Lyell's continuing public equivocation. Writing to Joseph Hooker on February 24, 1863, he commented: "I am deeply disappointed (I do not mean personally) to find that his timidity prevents him from giving any judgement...I had hoped he would have guided the public as far as his own belief went."

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Updated 23 June 1999 by the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.
Copyright © 1999, the University of South Carolina.