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The Annotated <i>Origin</i>: A Facsimile of the First Edition of <i>On the Origin of Species</i> Paperback – Facsimile, May 15, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0674060173 ISBN-10: 0674060172 Edition: Facsimile

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Product Details

  • Series: A Facsimile of the First Edition
  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; Facsimile edition (May 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674060172
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674060173
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 8.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #369,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


On the Origin of Species has too long been one of those worthy books whose fate is to be lauded but unread. Jim Costa's deft commentary—an authoritative and engaging mix of history and science—will change that. The Origin is forbidding and inaccessible no longer—it has evolved! The Annotated Origin restores, for modern readers, the freshness and excitement that made it a bestseller when it first appeared. Charles Darwin, I'm sure, couldn't wish for a better 200th birthday present. (Andrew Berry, editor of Infinite Tropics: An Alfred Russel Wallace Anthology)

Despite being 150 years old, the Origin is a living text for biologists. It is full of unsurpassed natural history observations, a model of careful scientific argument that still can catch the imagination with the grandeur of the views it puts forward. Jim Costa has provided an exceptionally lucid explanation. (Janet Browne, author of Charles Darwin: The Power of Place)

Brilliant. (Bernd Heinrich, author of The Snoring Bird: My Family's Journey through a Century of Biology)

The Annotated Origin is a culminating and, in an original manner of its own, the most useful of the centennial Darwin publications. It gives you the choice of reading page by page the original Origin, or its modern interpretation, or both together. (Edward O. Wilson)

Jim Costa does a wonderful job of annotating Darwin's groundbreaking classic On the Origin of Species. In more than 900 notes, he explains, expands, contextualizes and updates much of what Darwin had to say about evolution and its causes… Costa's thoughtful and informative notes enable readers to gain a much fuller appreciation for Darwin's genius and breadth of knowledge—a fine tribute in the great scientist's bicentennial year. (Publishers Weekly 2009-03-09)

Clearly worth attention… Costa makes use of his experience as a field naturalist and his knowledge of the modern literature of evolutionary biology to illumine many passages in Darwin's work. (Richard C. Lewontin New York Review of Books 2009-05-28)

Everyone knows about [On the Origin of Species], but I venture to guess that few non-scholars have actually read it. Now, along comes James T. Costa with this facsimile. The index to the new edition, and especially Costa's wonderful annotations, make this classic text not only approachable, but positively inviting… Biologists will probably enjoy this book, but it is a particular gift to laypeople, especially to biology teachers. They can take excerpts from the book into their classes and show their students how Charles Darwin arrived at his insightful and revolutionizing idea. (Dudley Barlow Education Digest 2009-11-01)

The Annotated Origin should be on the shelf of every practitioner of the life sciences. James T. Costa has rendered a valuable service to the profession by making the single most influential work in the history of biology both accessible and relevant to modern readers. Costa is aware that most students of biological science have at best merely glanced at Darwin's great book, but certainly have never read it through. By making visible what he calls the breathtaking sweep of Darwin's method, he has made a compelling argument for taking a page from Darwin's playbook in making the case for biological evolution… Darwin has sometimes been portrayed as a plodding scientist, a good observer whose second-rate status is masked by the pregnancy of the grand idea he stumbled upon. Costa's work is a wonderful refutation of this portrait. No one who follows Costa through The Annotated Origin can possibly doubt Darwin's exceptional stature. There is no better tribute he could have made for this celebration of Darwin's 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his masterpiece. (Frederick Gregory BioScience 2009-11-01)

It's entirely possible—I think it's likely—that when the overwhelming and heartwarming cascade of attention to the 2009 anniversary of Darwin's 1809 birth and 1859 publication of On the Origin of Species has at last subsided, the palm for Best in Show will go to James Costa's beautifully-produced and scrupulously, joyously annotated version of the Origin. The idea is so simple that it flies considerably below the fray of mammoth biographies and shrill pie-fights with the so-called 'New Atheists': take the text of one of the most seminal and subversive books ever written, and add a thoroughly informed and entertaining running commentary. This is exactly what Costa does, and it bears all the marks of being a labor of love… This is the finest book of its kind ever produced. It should tide you over quite well until 2059. (Steve Donoghue Open Letters Monthly 2009-10-29)

I should like to recommend the best, and most informative book to emerge from the [Darwin Year] extravaganza. It merits reading with complete attention, for it is also a fairly honest book, presenting Darwin in his historical context, and in the evolution of his own thinking, while drawing lines of connection, wherever they can be found, between the original insights and the best lab and field work of 'neo-Darwinism' today. The book is by James T. Costa, entitled The Annotated Origin. The first edition of Origin of Species is reprinted on wide pages with annotations down the outside columns. There are supplementary aids, including an excellent biographical directory of Darwin's predecessors and contemporaries. No one seriously interested in Darwinian phenomena should dare not to buy this book. (David Warren Ottawa Citizen 2009-09-27)

Ably edited by James Costa, The Annotated Origin contains many of the annotations that the original Origin of Species lacked, and provides the reader with a comprehensive grounding in the natural history that Darwin marshaled in support of his revolutionary theory. (Allen MacNeill EvolutionList.blogspot.com 2009-11-11)

Costa has placed a facsimile of the first edition of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species side-by-side with a thorough page-by-page commentary. He applies his considerable experience as a field biologist in addressing critical passages in Darwin's work. Previous efforts to annotate important books concentrated mainly on works of literature, but this effort examines one of the most important books in the history of science… Costa's annotations provide enormously helpful information about all of Darwin's editions of the Origin, and students from all levels of the natural sciences and the history of science will welcome this work. (J. S. Schwartz Choice 2010-01-01)

One of the beauties of this finely-crafted tour of Darwin's Origin is that you can wander through it at will and still find a firmly-connected story of biology… When you read the original Darwin, the beauty of his prose makes you almost ignore his logic. Costa crisply navigates the currents of Darwin here, as he does steadily throughout his book… Costa teaches clearly, interestingly and relentlessly to the end… [An] illuminating book. I suggest making this book a required reference source in evolution classes. (Joseph L. Fail, Jr. Evolution: Education and Outreach 2010-09-01)

We have long had the simple facsimile of the all-important first edition of the Origin, published by the same press (Harvard) with a short introduction by the eminent evolutionist Ernst Mayr. Now we have a much expanded work, with the most interesting comments and brief essays by a first-class biologist lined up on the pages against the original text. (Michael Ruse Quarterly Review of Biology 2010-03-01)

A masterful, refreshing, thoroughly enjoyable and sometimes novel perspective on Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species… With copious notes placed in the large margins of a beautiful facsimile of the first edition, Costa provides an eclectic but extraordinarily useful and insightful series of cross-references, natural history trivia, updates, expansions and comparisons to modern data, historical context, methodology, philosophy and biographical details. This book is no mere coffee-table showpiece… This lovingly created work must be rated as one of the most important resources available for Darwin scholarship and education. (David H. A. Fitch Nature Cell Biology 2010-05-01)

About the Author

James T. Costa is Executive Director of Highlands Biological Station and Professor of Biology at Western Carolina University.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
The reader is thus helpfully guided through Darwin's seminal work by a companionable expert.
Along the way, and indeed at every step, Darwin expressly points out the chief objections that can be raised to his argument, and addresses them, one by one.
Bryan Pfaffenberger
It gives us a facsimile of the first edition of "On the Origin of Species" side by side with up-to-date explanations and comments by James T. Costa.
P. Webster

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By P. Webster on February 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is the best edition available (as far as I am aware) of one of the most important books ever written, in which Darwin provided the answer to what had been called the "mystery of mysteries", the origin of species.

Darwin shows that "species are not immutable"; that all living creatures are linked by common descent; and that natural selection is the mechanism by which evolutionary change takes place.

This edition really does provide the best of both worlds. It gives us a facsimile of the first edition of "On the Origin of Species" side by side with up-to-date explanations and comments by James T. Costa.

You do not have to be a scientific specialist to read the "Origin", but I do feel that you can get more out of it if you have first read a modern introduction to evolution such as Ernst Mayr's "What Evolution Is" or Jerry Coyne's "Why Evolution Is True". This, along with Costa's annotations, allows you to appreciate what Darwin got right and what he got wrong, as well as the historical context of the times.

There were things that Darwin could not know 150 years ago: he knew nothing of modern genetics or the causes of variation; he mistakenly thought that the Lamarckian inheritance of acquired characteristics played a part in evolution; and later theorists such as Ernst Mayr have added to our understanding of how one species branches off from another in the speciation process. This is where the prior reading I have suggested and Costa's annotations are particularly useful.

I must admit that there are sections (those on variation and hybridism, for example) that I found myself skimming. But, on the other hand, chapters such as those on the "Struggle for Existence" and "Natural Selection" drew me into reading every word.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Pfaffenberger on March 15, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Everyone has opinions about evolution, but how many people have actually read Darwin? If you haven't done so yet, you're missing out on what is surely one of the greatest books ever written, period. And this edition, which provides an authoritative facsimile of the famed first edition PLUS helpful, explanatory annotations, page-by-page, is the one to read. To some people, I suppose, Darwin's Origin will be dry reading... but that's not what readers thought in the mid-nineteenth century, when the book created a sensation and, arguably, changed the way people conceptualize their position and role in the universe. I think Darwin's prose speaks just as powerfully today. The entire book amounts, as Darwin himself said, to an argument -- and it is an argument for the ages. What a magnificent work this is! Darwin engages the reader in a dialogue, presenting the plain facts as they were known at his time, and asking the reader to proceed, step by step. He begins by noting how knowledgable breeders can modify domesticated organisms significantly by means of artificial selection -- and what is more, that they can do so in only a few generations. Building on his unmatched knowledge of nature, Darwin presents the book's fundamental, earth-shaking concept: the environment in which organisms live exerts a selection force of its own, which he calls natural selection. By no means does he depict a battle for survival, in which only the fiercest win; the game is far more complex, and in a series of breathtakingly vivid chapters, Darwin shows why: Deception and subterfuge may well be the master of ferocity and strength, depending on the changing, inexorable pressure of natural selection. But this is not a one-sided argument.Read more ›
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Steve on March 23, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After reading Darwin's Ghost: The Origin of Species Updated, by Steve Jones (a Professor of Genetics), my interest in Darwin's work was revived. But my copy of Darwin's Origin (read many years ago) has no notes, so I hoped that someone must have done an annotated edition. How else can a modern reader appreciate Darwin's many references to other scientists, and what he learned from them, without pausing at every page to delve into a research library? Fortunately, James Costa has done the research for us, and his marginal notes are a perfect guide to Darwin's thoughts and their sources. His notes also put Darwin's work in context, comparing it to other theories of what we now call evolution, as well as showing us what Darwin was arguing for and against. However, the blurb on the back cover, "The Origin of Species is the most important yet least read scientific work in the history of science." is false on both counts. That distinction belongs to Isaac Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, which revolutionized physics and astronomy, and was the model for scientific thought for centuries; but consists mostly of elaborate geometrical proofs of results Newton obtained by his calculus. Darwin's English prose, in contrast, can be enjoyed by anyone whose attention span has not been hopelessly attenuated by cyber-communication.

Steve Jones' book is a good companion volume to Costa's annotated Origin, because Jones shows us how biologists have developed, confirmed, and corrected Darwin's ideas since his death. For example, Mendel read Darwin and his marginal notes in his copy of The Origin show that Mendel saw the significance of his experiments on peas for Darwin's theories. But Mendel's work was dismissed by other biologists because he was unable to duplicate his results on peas with other plants, for reasons not understood until the development of genetics.
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