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The Descent of Man

DARWIN, CHARLES. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex

London: John Murray, 1871

Two volumes. Original green cloth. Minimal repair to head of spine. A near fine set.

FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, with the uncorrected text in Vol. I and with the list of errata on the verso of the title-page in Vol. II. Freeman observes that “there are important textual differences” between the two issues of the first edition. One of these, later rectified with the removal of long passages from the second issue, is pointed out in the first issue’s inserted slip referring to “a serious an unfortunate error, in relation to the sexual differences of animals.”

This is the work in which Darwin applied his theory of evolution by means of natural selection to man, a subject he had avoided for the decade following the publication of On the Origin of Species. The word “evolution” appears here for the first time in any of Darwin’s works (it was incorporated the following year in the sixth edition of the Origin). Darwin observed that man’s extinct ancestors would have to be classified among the primates, a statement that was misinterpreted in the popular press and caused a furor surpassed only by that of the Origin.

Darwin wrote, “The time will before long come when it will be thought wonderful, that naturalists, who were well acquainted with the comparative structure and development of man and other animals, should have believed that each was the work of a separate act of creation.”

Freeman 937