Hard Cover. London: John Murray, 1885. Fine.
Second edition ("nineteenth thousand"), revised and augmented. Finely bound by Bayntun-Rivière in period-style quarter green morocco and light green cloth with five raised bands to spine, lettered in gilt with decorative gilt stamping to each compartment, top edge gilt, light pink and blue marbled endpapers. Fine book with just a few light scuffs to spine, contemporary ownership signature to half-title, now faded, a few notations in light pencil and faded ink to text. Overall, a handsome copy in a fine binding. Housed in a custom black cloth slipcase. Freeman 959. First published in 1871, The Descent of Man expands upon the theories of selection and evolution proposed in Darwin's earlier work, On the Origin of Species (1859). In Descent, Darwin puts forth a new theory of sexual selection, explaining how it differs from and works alongside natural selection. Notably, the first edition of Descent marks the first appearance of the word "evolution" in Darwin's writing. This volume discusses how evolutionary processes apply to humankind, drawing in concepts from evolutionary psychology and ideas of differing characteristics of anthropologically defined races of people. This work had huge implications for the history of humankind and was met with mixed responses from a society in which conservative religious beliefs could be at odds with scientific advancement. Indeed, in this second edition, Darwin mentions in his preface that there is a "fiery ordeal through which this book has passed," in which he refers to his critics, both scientific and non-scientific, who discounted his ideas. Interestingly, this copy bears the ownership signature of Cardinal Herbert Vaughan, an English archbishop and, later, member of the cardinalate of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1863, he founded the Catholic Truth Society, a group dedicated to publishing works that defended the Church's religious doctrines and upheld its beliefs. In a note written in the margin of Darwin's introduction to the book, Cardinal Vaughan writes that "no one, in Europe at least, dares any longer to maintain the theory of independent creation & of all things, of species." Darwin's writing, though largely unaccepted by the Catholic Church, was never put on their Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list of writings banned by the Vatican. For decades, the Vatican declined to take an official stance on the concept of evolution, until an official letter from Pope Pius XII in 1950 declared that there is no inherent conflict between evolution and Christianity.