On the Various Contrivances by Which British and Foreign Orchids are Fertilised by Insects, and On the Good Effects of Intercrossing.
London: John Murray, 1862. First Edition. Three-Quarter Calf. 8vo: vi,365,pp, with one folding plate and 33 woodcuts in text. Rebound, without the advertisements, in three-quarter chocolate-brown calf over marbled boards, flat spine in five compartments divided by double gilt fillets, compartments two and four lettered in gilt, end papers renewed. A Fine copy, virtually pristine, fresh, bright and unmarked. Freeman 800. Bibliotheca Bibliographici 1765. Fine. Item #BB1319
Followling on the heels of publication of On the Origin of Species, this was Darwin's first detailed demonstration of the power of natural selection, explaining how complex ecological relationships resulted in the coevolution of orchids and insects. According to Asa Gray, the most important American botanist of the 19th century, "If the Orchid-book (with a few trifling omissions) had appeared before the 'Origin,' the author would have been canonised rather than anathematised by the natural theologians," and he notes that a review in the Literary Churchman found only one fault, "that Mr. Darwin's expression of admiration at the contrivances in orchids is too indirect a way of saying, 'O Lord, how manifold are Thy works.'" Darwin himself wrote to John Murray on September 24th, 1861, "I think this little volume will do good to the "Origin", as it will show that I have worked hard at details." Orchids "was concerned with working out in detail the relationships between sexual structures of orchids and the insects which fertilise them, their evolution being attributed to natural selection. It is therefore the first of the volumes of supporting evidence. It was much praised by botanists, but sold only about 6,000 copies before the turn of the century. . . . I have not seen any figure for the number of copies printed [for the first edition], although it cannot have been more than 2,000 and was probably less." (Freeman) N. B. With few exceptions (always identified), we only stock books in exceptional condition, carefully preserved in archival, removable polypropylene sleeves. All orders are packaged with care and posted promptly. Satisfaction guaranteed.