London: John Murray, 1899. Second Edition. Original Cloth. A later but Very Fine printing (sixth Impression of the second edition) in the publisher's standard green binding. 8vo (190 x 122mm): xiv,300,pp, with one folding plate and 38 woodcuts in the text. Publisher's green cloth, covers paneled in blind, spine stamped in gilt, chocolate coated end papers, top edge rough-trimmed. (There exists another, probably later, state, unrecorded by Freeman, with white end papers, lighter cloth, slightly different tooling to spine, and lacking "London" in the imprint.) Fly leaf foxed, with previous owner's name, else highly presentable, virtually pristine and tightly bound, the gilt remarkably fresh and bright. Freeman F814. Bibliotheca Bibliographici 1765. Fine. Item #BB2034
Following 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, with dust jackets carefully preserved in archival, removable mylar sleeves. All orders are packaged with care and posted promptly. Satisfaction guaranteed. (Fine Editions Ltd is a member of the Independent Online Booksellers Association, and we subscribe to its codes of ethics.).