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Origins: Selected Letters of Charles Darwin, 1822-1859. Anniversary edition. Hardcover – Deluxe Edition, June 16, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Anniversary edition (June 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521898625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521898621
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,444,337 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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"This fascinating selection of letters...chart one of the most exciting periods of Darwin's life, including the voyage of the Beagle and subsequent studies which led him to develop his theory of natural selection."
-Southeastern Naturalist

Book Description

Special Anniversary Edition of the best-selling Burkhardt: Charles Darwin's Letters: A Selection 1825-1859 now with new, previously unpublished letters. This fascinating selection of the actual letters written to and from Darwin charts some of the most exciting periods in the life of one of the most controversial thinkers of modern times.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John Duncan on November 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Now that the entire collection of Charles Darwin's letters that have survived is available on the web one might wonder why one would need a selection of them in printed form. In fact, however, Darwin is known to have exchanged at least 14500 letters with around 2000 different correspondents, and although the whole collection is a supremely valuable resource for the serious scholar it is hardly digestible for the more casual reader, who needs some preselection to whet the appetite for a more detailed examination.

This first collection covers the years from 1822, when Darwin was a schoolboy, to the end of 1859, when the first edition of his best-known book, The Origin of Species, was published. It thus covers the essential period of the years leading up to the publication of the theory of natural selection, and contains much valuable information about his thoughts at that time. In particular, although Darwin's diffidence about publishing is well known, and he might never have taken the leap if he hadn't learned of the parallel development of similar ideas by Alfred Russel Wallace, his correspondence makes it clear that he wasn't diffident about the idea of natural selection itself -- he just worried that he hadn't developed the argument sufficiently to convince a broad public.

Not the least valuable component of this collection is the excellent foreword by Stephen Jay Gould, which supplies a very readable introduction to the context in which the letters were written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By P. Webster on September 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating selection of letters written by Charles Darwin, a man who is summed up by Stephen Jay Gould in the Foreword as being "radical in his scientific ideas, liberal in his political and social views, and conservative in personal lifestyle..."

The letters in this volume cover the period stretching from his childhood up to the publication of "On the Origin of Species" in 1859, including letters sent while on his voyage round the world on the Beagle. ("...if it was not for sea-sickness the whole world would be sailors.")

The letters give us an insight into Darwin's personal life as well as the development of his ideas. For example, there is the moving letter that Darwin wrote to his wife Emma in 1851 informing her of the tragic death of "Our poor dear dear child" Annie. (Darwin was at Annie's bedside in Malvern where she was undergoing treatment, but Emma was at home in the late stages of another pregnancy).

We again see Darwin preoccupied by the death of another child ("poor Baby") in 1858 when his friends Hooker, Lyell and Huxley were arranging the joint presentation of papers on natural selection written by Darwin and by Alfred Russel Wallace.

There is plenty of ammunition in these letters to shoot down the ridiculous conspiracy theory which claims that Darwin stole the credit for the theory of natural selection from Wallace. Wallace certainly deserves credit for independently coming up with the same idea, but Wallace himself was always happy to play second fiddle to Darwin. For example, in 1908 Wallace made a speech to the Linnaean Society in which he explicitly defended Darwin's priority, pointing out that "...
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Origins: Selected Letters of Charles Darwin, 1822-1859. Anniversary edition.
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