On the Origin of Species, 1st edition, by Charles Darwin

December 09, 2017

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life—better known simply as On the Origin of Species—was written by Charles Darwin in 1859. It was published in London by John Murray of Albemarle Street. The copy owned by Grinnell’s Special Collections and Archives is a first edition of On the Origin of Species and was a gift of donor George Pinne.

Charles Darwin was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist. On the Origin of Species introduced the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection. Although not the first person to advance the theory of evolution, Darwin’s study and argument for natural selection was well-received and by the 1870s was accepted by most of the scientific community. Today, it is considered the foundation of evolutionary biology.

There are multiple signifiers inside the book itself that can help patrons understand the chain of custody of this particular book. A sticker on the back cover shows that the book was bound by Edmonds & Remnants in London. Another sticker on the inside cover shows that at some point, the book was sold by Thompson, Bury located on Abbeygate Street in London.

A bookplate with family crest tells us that the book was once owned by the Rev. J. Steavenson. It is possible that the J. Steavenson of the bookplate is the same man listed in The British Magazine [and Monthly Register of Religious and Ecclesiastical Information, Parochial History and Documents Respecting the State of the Poor, Progress of Education, &c.] as being employed at St. John’s College, Cambridge.

We encourage anyone with an interest to drop by Special Collections and examine this volume in person.  Special Collections and Archives is open to the public 1:30-5:00pm Monday through Friday and mornings by appointment.