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On the Origin of Species: A Facsimile of the First Edition (Harvard Paperbacks) Facsimile Edition

21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674637528
ISBN-10: 0674637526
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Editorial Reviews


The Origin is one of the most important books ever published, and a knowledge of it should be a part of the intellectual equipment of every educated person… The book will endure in future ages so long as a knowledge of science persists in mankind. It remains to be said that the edition here reviewed is very worthily produced and contains a little-known picture of Darwin. (W. L. Sumner Nature)

This is a most valuable publication. In addition to the text of the first edition (1859) of the Origin with all the freshness and directness of the original, now here made available in facsimile, Professor Ernst Mayr of Harvard, a most distinguished writer in this field, has prefaced this reprint with an introduction that is in itself a classic. (Times Literary Supplement)

It was a very happy idea to publish a facsimile of the first edition of On the Origin of Species; the price of copies of the original edition has reached the thousand dollar bracket, and in contemporary literature all page-references are to the original pagination, which was not followed in previous reprints of the first edition. Now, with this very reasonably priced and beautifully produced book, not only historians of science but also biologists will have the opportunity of following the fascinating thought-trails, still far from fully explored, of that remarkable man Darwin. Few if any persons are so well qualified as Harvard's Ernst Mayr to execute so helpfully and gracefully the delicate task of writing a worthy foreword to such a classic. (Sir Gavin de Beer Science)

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Product Details

  • Series: Harvard Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 540 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Facsimile edition (February 22, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674637526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674637528
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

162 of 179 people found the following review helpful By psychephile on June 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
There is only one reason to read "On the Origin of Species" -- to discover how Darwin himself first articulated the most revolutionary scientific theory of all time. And to achieve this purpose there is only one means -- to read his original argument, set forth with the greatest force, clarity, and brevity in that very first edition published in 1859. So, unless you happen to have the $$$ to buy an actual first edition, this facsimile of the first edition is the *only* way to read Darwin: all other paperback "Origins" publish Darwin's latest edition.
But even if you are not interested in the history of biology (scoundrel!), and you think you'll learn complete evolutionary theory from the "Origin" (fool!), you should get this edition -- and *not* later ones. Darwin's later editions of the "Origin" contain many errors that are not found in the original edition, including especially a progressive weakening of his original argument (evolution by natural selection) by the importation of Lamarckism (evolution by the inheritance of acquired characters). In these later editions, Darwin had been convinced by blockhead, mystical *physicists* that his *geology* was wrong (as if!), so he had to speed up the timing of everything, which meant smuggling in Lamarckism.
Last, this volume contains an introduction from one of the most charming biologists and philosophers of all time -- Ernst Mayr. This intro alone is worth the price of the book.
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52 of 57 people found the following review helpful By James R. Mccall on January 7, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
NOTE that this is a review of the Harvard University Press facsimile of the first edition of "On the Origin of Species" (intro by Ernst Mayr). This is NOT a commentary on Darwin's text.
I blithely bought and began reading the Modern Library's "Origin", then came across this facsimile of the first edition in the library. Hmm, I wondered. I used the quotations in the front of my copy to deduce that I was reading the sixth (and last) edition, rather than the first. While that, too, has its considerable interest in illustrating the twists and turns of Darwin's thought during those years, the evolution revolution was made by the first edition. As Ernst Mayr says in his introduction, "When we go back to the Origin, we want the version that stirred up the Western world, the first edition." Besides which, if one is going to do any historical research, one needs this edition, for contemporary references use the first edition's pagination.
But most importantly, this is the firstborn of Darwin's mind, long gestating, and contains his most confident and positive statement of his thesis. He had tried to anticipate all the major objections to his theory and answer them preemptively here. Still, at the time of this writing he had no critics, so the tone and content display none of that waffling that mar, to a certain extent, the final edition.
This volume was put together in 1964, and Ernst Mayr's introduction dates from that time. It is a good historical introduction to Darwin and his contribution, and some more specific remarks on the first edition, its general approach and some of its path-breaking arguments. Also included in the extra matter is a bibliography of Darwin's published works, plus current works on evolution, as of 1964.
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63 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Alan R. Holyoak on May 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
A group of my students and I read this book this semester. During the discussion period for the final chapter, one of the students said, "I cried. This was the best book I have ever read." On the other hand, another student expressed great disappointment with the book. Another student quipped, "There weren't enough examples about pigeons." All in all, this book provides excellent food for thought today, just as it did 140 years ago when it was first published. I found Darwin's insights and synthesis of ideas, based on the accumulation of carefully collected observations combined with intellectual leaps to be inspiring. There are flaws in portions of the book to be sure, but this is a book that all biologists and biology students should have a chance to read and discuss. When you read it, make sure you read the entire book, discuss it with a friend or two as you read, and you can look forward to a perfect conclusion to this paradigm shifting book that continues to influence modern biological thought.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Serge Marinkovic MD on December 20, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Many love to read science whether it is the newest technological innovations for high definition TV's or we expose to learn more about the unified field theory or String Theory. Science leaves us with alot to explore. What is the scientific equivalent of Shakespeare's Folio's? Or perhaps Cervante's-Don Quioxte's? Many scientist may say Darwin's-Origin of Species. This fascimilie of the 1st edition which is full of elegent prose and vivid descriptions and analogies while later editions are less decisive and espouse more questions than answers is the edition to read. Which is a dated romantic language. So arguably the most important text written in English is also easy to read and understand with little thought primarily to Darwin clear use of prose. It is a book that has been most heavily criticised since its inception and publication in November 29, 1859 but it is now gaining the long overdue momentum accorded the works of Copernicus and Newton. Just bring your imagination along for the splendid ride.
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