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On the Origin of Species (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – February 1, 2009

3.7 out of 5 stars 830 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It's hard to talk about The Origin of Species without making statements that seem overwrought and fulsome. But it's true: this is indeed one of the most important and influential books ever written, and it is one of the very few groundbreaking works of science that is truly readable.

To a certain extent it suffers from the Hamlet problem--it's full of clichés! Or what are now clichés, but which Darwin was the first to pen. Natural selection, variation, the struggle for existence, survival of the fittest: it's all in here.

Darwin's friend and "bulldog" T.H. Huxley said upon reading the Origin, "How extremely stupid of me not to have thought of that." Alfred Russel Wallace had thought of the same theory of evolution Darwin did, but it was Darwin who gathered the mass of supporting evidence--on domestic animals and plants, on variability, on sexual selection, on dispersal--that swept most scientists before it. It's hardly necessary to mention that the book is still controversial: Darwin's remark in his conclusion that "Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history" is surely the pinnacle of British understatement. --Mary Ellen Curtin --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Originally published in 1859, Darwin's revolutionary idea is revisited in this spirited and profoundly enthralling reading by Professor Richard Dawkins, who in reading Darwin's material aloud manages to rediscover old ideas and unearth some dramatic subtleties in his prose. Dawkins offers a well-pronounced, pitch-perfect delivery and smartly never attempts to turn the reading into a performance from Darwin's point of view. Instead, Dawkins delivers the material from his own context as a modern-day interpreter of the classical work. Dawkins also splendidly adapts this abridgment, leaving out sections of Darwin's original theories that have been discredited by modern science. Dawkins says he believes his alterations are what Darwin himself would have wished for the recording, and the final result is an absolutely astounding glimpse into life as we know it. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Revised ed. edition (February 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199219222
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199219223
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 1 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (830 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #517,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have to admit, I'm astonished by the ease with which one can be fooled into thinking they've procured the full and legitimate content of Darwin's signature work. A couple of easy clues, though:

Darwin refers in this version to a diagram in chapter IV, to illustrate "The Probable Effects of the Process of Natural Selection Through Divergence of Character and Extinction, On the Descendants of a Common Ancestor." This diagram is absent in this version, and this absence is what started me on the road to identifying this version as a fraud. I began to search for other editions of "Origins" to see if they included the diagram. And that search found not only that most versions did contain the diagram, but that the full text of this work ran to over 550 pages - twice as many as are included in this version.

I should also have known better than to have procured a free version. You truly do get what you pay for.

Be aware, as you look for a reliable version of the work, that there are many fraudulent versions out there. I won't go into detail on this, as this review concerns this specific version. But I can say that I've purchased a version that I am satisfied is a faithful rendering of the complete content. The ISBN number is 978-0-451-52906-0. It's the 150th anniversary edition, with an introduction by Julian Huxley. Still, don't take my word for it, and do your own due diligence. There is another "150th anniversary" version with an introduction by Ray Comfort, who is a Christian prothselitizer. So be careful.

Hopefully this will prevent you from having to start reading the work again from the beginning, as I've had to do. But I'm glad to have figured it out and separated fact from fiction.
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Format: Hardcover
Note: For some reason, the Kindle edition is different from the version I reviewed. The version I reviewed is a hardback and it is not introduced by a creationist. Please be very careful in considering editions of this book, as there are many.

This edition of "On the Origin of Species" is invaluable to anyone who has been suffering without Darwin's most important work, or getting by with only a stripped-down version. The text is the first edition of the six editions Darwin oversaw in his lifetime. It's the version scientists now regard as the most powerful and passionate statement of Darwin's views. But besides the full (unabridged) "Origin," this large-format book is replete with other materials. The word "sumptuous" comes to mind. There are hundreds of amazing illustrations, maps and diagrams, many in full color. Also included are scores of substantial excerpts from other works by Darwin and correspondence between him and his contemporaries. This makes the book a treasure to have, because it is so incredibly rich in contextual materials.

For instance, pictures of T.H. Huxley are included along with Huxley's letter to Darwin, where Huxley asserted his (not altogether unconditional) support for Darwin's argument and added that he was sharpening his claws and beak in readiness - that is, to help defend Darwin from his opponents. I was also delighted with the many beautiful photographs taken in the Galapagos Islands and of life forms found there, to say nothing of the pictures of Darwin, his family, colleagues and adversaries that are interspersed throughout the book, and Darwin's own drawings, the pictures of Darwin's home near Downe, his desk, models and a detailed diagram of the H.M.S. Beagle, and so on. There is also a chronology of Darwin's life to 1864.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Almost everyone has heard of this book. But, how many people have actually read it? If you haven't yet, it is well-worth reading.

Darwin spent over 20 years researching his ideas, preparing his arguments, and writing this book. He did a great job! "On the Origin" is surprisingly easy to understand. Just look at the beginning. Instead of trying to leap directly into his basic idea and premise, Darwin chooses to gradually lead the reader up to the basic idea of evolution by first point out how humans have caused evolution to occur in our domesticated animals (something very easy for all humans to see even in the 1850s). Darwin then goes on to point out some of the evidence that he and others had seen at that time that indicated that evolution had occurred. His leap in understanding the basic premise of evolution is amazing especially when you consider that he did not understand or have access to information about the basics of genetic passing of traits within species.
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Format: Paperback
Amazon is mixing the reviews for different versions the 150th edition of Origin of Species. The version with the preface by Ray Comfort includes creationist nonsense and should be avoided. The version that includes the preface by Julian Huxley is worth owning.
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Format: Paperback
Darwin's Origin of Species is, of course, an icon of scientific writing. It is eminently readable and accessible to nonscientists and should be read by everyone. This edition though, the "150th Anniversary Edition" is an intentional Trojan horse published exclusively to serve as a vehicle for Ray Comfort's 50 page introduction. Comfort is a young-earth creationist and rejects Darwin's theory wholesale. Every reader of this review should contact Amazon and ask them to differentiate this edition of "Origin" from legitimate republications of this epic work. Comfort's 50 page intro is an embarrassing affront to scientific honesty and integrity. Anybody who has followed his antics on the internet knows not to take him seriously, but by attaching his name and his screed to Darwin's work, and then having Amazon market it as though it's a legitimate complement to this volume, is abhorrent.
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