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The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication 2 Volumes – Charles Darwin. 1888

Short Description

Charles Darwin conceived this book in the early 1850’s. It was to be his ‘Big Book”. However, in June 1858 he received a paper from Borneo by Alfred Russell Wallace relating to Natural selection … the race was on to publish so Darwin took the elements drawn up from his work on the Big Book relating to his views on natural selection and had Origin published to great success in November 1859. This book was published first in 1868 and in the intervening years Darwin published other elements on Descent of Man etc. Regardless of the pilfering for his other works this work still remained his largest work and he later described the difficulty he had in finishing it … a true 4 year and 2 months of labour went into it over the years.

Second Edition Revised published by Murray, London in 1888, two volumes 473 pages and 495 pages after preliminaries. Illustrated throughout from wood engravings. Original “Murray” green cloth covered bindings, blind embossed front and back, gilt titles etc to spine. An attractive set bar some light foxing and flecking to page edges.

This work contains the first reference to “pangenesis” in which Darwin proposes that cells contain hereditary material which he referred to as “gemmules” which could be modified by an organism’s environment and passed on to the next generation. Debunked for good by Mendel’s theories … the similarity with DNA is dismissed by all and sundry, but we quite like the idea.

You may be curious about the focus on domestic creatures and plants … but Darwin was concerned about “Variation” and had been since the Galapagos Islands – there are again references here to the Beagle Voyage. He could see that whilst man had a hand in selecting changes in domesticated breeds … it was the environment that was making the changes not the man. “It is an error to speak of man “tampering with nature” and causing variability. If a man drops a piece of iron into sulphuric acid, it cannot be said strictly that he makes the sulphate of iron, he only allows their elective affinities to come into play. If organic beings had not possessed an inherent tendency to vary, man could have done nothing”. Simple but we like it.

Incidentally, the principles behind pangenesis had been referred to as early as Hippocrates. Count Buffon had a crack at it as did Charles Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus Darwin in his book “Zoomania” published in 1801.

Darwin’s Big Book – what was left of it – Variation behind or in front of Evolution.

Price: $740.00

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