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From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin's Four Great Books (Voyage of the Beagle, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals) Hardcover – November 17, 2005

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From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin's Four Great Books (Voyage of the Beagle, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals) + The Autobiography of Charles Darwin: 1809-1882
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"...will bring the wonders of Darwin to a wide audience. [Darwin] was not only great in his time, but if anything he is even greater today." John Tyler Bonner, The Times Literary Supplement "Anyone who wishes to start the new year with a real intellectual feast will buy the four 'great books' of Darwin, published in one volume by W.W. Norton." A.N. Wilson, The Daily Telegraph

About the Author

Naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882) is the father of evolution. His groundbreaking The Origin of Species argued that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection. As much as anyone in the modern era, Darwin has changed the course of human thought.

Edward O. Wilson is widely recognized as one of the world's preeminent biologists and naturalists. The author of more than twenty books, including The Creation, The Social Conquest of Earth, The Meaning of Human Existence, and Letters to a Young Scientist, Wilson is a professor emeritus at Harvard University. The winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, he lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1706 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Slipcased Edition edition (November 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393061345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393061345
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 3.2 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

159 of 165 people found the following review helpful By 55anonymous55 on June 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Darwin was not just a top-notch scientist but also a gifted author. He had a very lively mind, and he read everything, which means he had a gift for finding just the right example to illustrate his point. And he always tries to make his case with modesty and thoughtfulness, the best way to convince a skeptic.

This edition of Darwin's four most famous works is beautifully printed and physically attractive. It's also sturdily bound, a good idea given the huge page count. However, there are two aspects of this edition that I regret:

--The footnotes are all printed as endnotes, so you have to flip back and forth. (This seems so strange to me: any word processing program can handle footnotes without difficulty, so why can't publishers cope with them?)

--I also regret that the distinguished editor, E. O. Wilson, did not add his own footnotes. When I read Darwin's more speculative remarks, I'd like to know: "Did this pan out; was Darwin in fact right on this point?". The books would benefit greatly from follow-up remarks, in light of the huge progress made in evolutionary theory since Darwin's day. Wilson's own vast knowledge would have made him an ideal candidate to provide such commentary.

But don't let my quibbles deter you. These books are deeply inspiring and very much worth your time.
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83 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Jamyang Norbu on February 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I know of at least three publishers, Norton, Running Press and Barnes & Noble, who have recently come out with single volume collections of Darwin's four major works. This particular collection published by Norton is by far the most complete and useful. First of all the book has been edited by the eminent Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson. Wilson provides an introductory essay for the collection and separate introductions for the four books. The essays are clear and informative, though I would have liked them to be longer. Still we are provided with separate indexes for all four books including a general index. The Running Press collection, by comparison, lacks an index and has, furthermore, had most illustrations removed.

The only complaint I have about the Norton book is that Darwin's footnotes have been converted to endnotes. A bit of an annoyance.
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84 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Mitton on December 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I think it was Gould who lamented the fact that so few people have actually read Darwin. I'll admit that he's not always easy reading but it's almost always rewarding and this small collection puts his four primary works right on your desk.

Darwin's writings are far from the last word on evolution and natural selection and enormous strides have been made since he first presented his ideas. That doesn't diminish the importance of these works though. Feynman always went back to the original authors in his study of physics and found that it gave him a tremendous edge in understanding new ideas: once you have a firm foundation and basis of understanding it's easier to see how new ideas fit in or change the central dogma. In the same way these volumes are necessary for an understanding of the historical questions concerning evolution and for the still current debates.

I found the introduction and notes by Wilson to be a real help that added to the text. Darwin's ideas are seminal and still so controversial to out culture at large that we still fight over them. Reading through this collection can help gain a deeper perspective into Darwin, his ideas, and the entire study of evolution.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Pork Chop on October 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Having also considered the alternative collection "The Evolution Of An
Idea by James Watson " I arrived at this work, from the couple dozen
small newspaper-style, mini-illustrations on same pages, and the feedback
received from this work.

Actually, it's an open debate whether this is the best option. First,
all 4 books are glued together in one giant "tome" ...and this doesn't
facilitate reading, from the size or the volume. Also, the pages are
extremely thin, although not transparent, and probably smudge easily
and are fragile. That's another liability, if one makes notes in the
pages, probably the ink will leak to the other size, etc.

Perhaps the best option, is buying all 4 books separately, and reading
them one at a time.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Valerie J. on March 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Several fine reviews have already been written here about this collection of Darwin's books, which I have only just received and have not, therefore, had chance to read from cover to cover. So, I cannot comment on Darwin's words, except to say that the little I did read showed an easy, highly comprehensible style of writing which was, to me, surprisingly modern. The reason why I have decided to add my review is that little has been said about the aesthetic beauty of this collection. For me, books are not just books, and I am sure there are many readers that know exactly what I mean by that without my having to spell it out. In this collection, the paper is fine and smooth and the print clear. Where I live, in the tropics, cheap, porous paper soon becomes mottled and darkens in colour and I have found that paper of this quality is often impervious to heat and humidity. The hard binding, under the dust jacket is, to me, so delightful I am almost, but not quite, tempted to throw the dust jacket away! The dust jacket is handsomely designed and is repeated on the outside of the protective slipcase. Warning: Don't buy the book expecting it to be packed with colour photographs and/or illustrations; it isn't. It is, however,worth every cent, in my opinion.
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From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin's Four Great Books (Voyage of the Beagle, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals)
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