Origin of Species takes record result in US sale

The record-breaking copy of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species sold by Bonhams New York for $400,000 (£316,353).

Uncut and partially unopened, a truly exceptional presentation copy of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species… sold for a record $400,000 (£316,353) in a recent US sale.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Ian McKay

The record-breaking copy of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species sold by Bonhams New York for $400,000 (£316,353).

The star turn at Bonhams New York (27.5/25/20/13.9% buyer’s premium) on June 13, this was a remarkably well-preserved copy in the publisher’s blind-stamped and gilt lettered green cloth binding of a work that the Dictionary of Scientific Biography calls “a turning point not only in the history of science, but in the history of ideas in general”.

No copies signed by Darwin himself are known, but a number were designated for presentation in the months immediately following publication in November 1859 and were inscribed to that effect by one of the publisher John Murray’s clerks.

Bearing the words “Professor Caspary/Koenigsberg/from the author”, this one was intended for Johann Xavier Robert Caspary, a botanist and director of the botanic gardens in the then German city – seized by Russia in the Second World War and now known as Kaliningrad.

A frequent correspondent, who also visited Darwin at his home in 1866, Caspary’s valuable work is discussed in two of Darwin’s later books.

In 1964, in his introduction to the Harvard University facsimile edition of Darwin’s great work, Ernst Mayr wrote: “The publication of the Origin of Speciesushered in a new era in our thinking about the nature of man.

“The intellectual revolution it caused and the impact it had on man’s concept of himself and the world were greater than those caused by the works of Copernicus, Newton, and the great physicists of more recent times.

“Every modern discussion of man’s future, the population explosion, the struggle for existence, the purpose of man and the universe, and man’s place in nature rests on Darwin.”