The Descent of Man

Descent vol. 2 1871Descent vol. 1 1871Darwin wrote, in the preface to the second edition, of 'the fiery ordeal through which this book has passed'. He had avoided the logical outcome of the general theory of evolution, bringing man into the scheme, for twelve years, and in fact it had, by that time, been so much accepted that the clamour of the opposition was not strident. He had also been preceded in 1863 by Huxley's Man's place in nature. The book, in its first edition, contains two parts, the descent of man itself, and selection in relation to sex. The word 'evolution' occurs, for the first time in any of Darwin's works, on page 2 of the first volume of the first edition, that is to say before its appearance in the sixth edition of The origin of species in the following year. The last chapter is about sexual selection in relation to man, and it ends with the famous peroration about man's lowly origin, the wording of which differs slightly in the first edition from that which is usually quoted. In a letter dated March 28, 1871 (Emma Darwin, Vol. II, pp. 202-203) Darwin mentions the help that his daughter Henrietta Emma had given him in reading the manuscript and correcting the style, and calls her 'my very dear coadjutor and fellow-labourer'.

The first edition is in two volumes and occurs in two issues which can not be distinguished by their title pages, inserted advertisements or bindings. They have, however, important textual differences. The first issue can be recognized by the errata on the verso of the title leaf of Volume II, seventeen errata for Volume I and eight for Volume II. The verso of the title leaf of Volume II of the second issue has a list of nine other works by Darwin and no errata. The verso of the half title leaf of Volume II of the first issue bears the printer's note, but it is blank in the second. The first issue has a note on a tipped in leaf (pp. [ix-x]) in Volume II which refers to 'a serious and unfortunate error' which affects pages 297-299 in Volume I, and pages 161 and 237 in Volume II. In the second issue this leaf is absent and the relevant pages have been entirely reset. The easiest way to distinguish the two issues of Volume I alone is to look at the first word on page 297. It is 'transmitted' in the first issue and 'When' in the second. Both issues have sixteen pages of inserted advertisements for Murray's popular works in Volume I, and sixteen pages of Murray's standard works in Volume II, all dated January 1871. The first issue, of 2,500 copies, was published on February 24, and the second, of 2,000 copies, in March. Both cost £1. 4s. and were in standard bindings. The end-papers of the first issue are invariably, in my experience, dark green almost black; whilst those of the second may be the same, or dark brown.

The above descriptions refer to ordinary trade copies. Darwin's own copy of Volume I of the first issue, now at Cambridge, differs in three points and is, in my experience, unique. Firstly, it is dated 1870 on the title page; secondly the wording on the title page differs slightly from that of the trade edition; and thirdly the spine gilding of the case differs. These points are summarized under No. 936. It is known that Wallace received his complimentary copy late in 1870, and other complimentaries may have gone out at the same time, so that other copies like Darwin's own may exist. The presentation copy to William Boyd Dawkins, however, is dated February 17. In the first American edition, which is not printed from English stereos, Volume I is based on the first issue text and Volume II on the second. Volume II gives sixteen errata for Volume I, the compositor having noticed 'dragon-flys' (p. 344) as being wrong, and none for Volume II. The passage about the serious error is retained, except for that part which refers to pages 161 and 237 of Volume II. I have seen a copy of Volume I which is dated February 25, so that it is probable that the two volumes were not issued together. There is a second American issue of Volume I which follows the text of the English second.

There were two further issues of the two volume English edition, in April and in December of 1871, the seventh and eighth thousands. Small changes were made in the texts of each, and Darwin remarks, in the preface to the second edition, 'during the successive reprints of the first edition of this work ... I was able to introduce several important corrections'.

The second edition of 1874, the tenth thousand, is in one volume in three parts, instead of the two of the first, sexual selection in relation to man being separated off as the third part. It is extensively revised and contains a note on the brains of man and apes by T. H. Huxley at pp. 199-206, and a five line errata slip. This and the subsequent four printings are octavos in twelves, whilst that of 1882 becomes an octavo in eights; all are in standard bindings. The eleventh thousand of 1875 has the errata corrected as well as small textual changes. The twelfth thousand of 1877 has added at the end, pp. 620-624, a supplemental note which is reprinted from Nature of November 2 1876, p. 18. This is the final definitive text, and subsequent one volume issues until the turn of the century are from stereos of it.

In 1888, there was an entirely new printing in two volumes, the Library Edition, uniform with the similar edition of The origin of species printed in the same year. This had two later issues, and the same stereos, repaginated, were then used for the one volume issues of the Edwardian period. Although not nearly so much in demand as The origin of species, the work has appeared in a number of library series, especially in America, and has been almost continuously in print, either in full or abridged; it has also appeared in combination volumes with The origin of species. There is a Brussels facsimile of the seventh thousand in 1969, and a New York one of the second edition in 1974, but no facsimile of the first issue of the first edition has yet appeared. The Limited Editions Club of New York issued a handsome quarto in 1971, which, like their Origin of species, was produced by the Griffin Press, Adelaide: unfortunately it omits the parts on selection in relation to sex and is therefore useless as a text.

It was translated into Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian and Swedish in Darwin's lifetime and into ten further languages since. These include two in Yiddish, one from America and one from Poland, the only Darwins in this language.

Click here for a full bibliographical list.

1871. The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. London: John Murray. 1st ed.
Vol. 1. Text Image PDF F937.1
Vol. 2. Text Image PDF F937.2

1871. The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. 7th thousand. London: John Murray. Vol. 1. Image PDF F939.1

1871. The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. New York: D. Appleton.
Vol. 1. Image PDF F941.1
Vol. 2. Image PDF F941.2

1871. The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. New York: D. Appleton.
Vol. 1. Image PDF F942.1
Vol. 2. Image PDF F942.2

1874. The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. London: John Murray. 2d ed.; tenth thousand. Text Image PDF F944

1882. The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. London: John Murray. 2d ed., 15th thousand. Text Image PDF F955


1874-1875. Menneskets Afstamning og Parringsvalget. Introduction
Vol. 1. Text Image PDF F1050.1
Vol. 2. Text Image PDF F1050.2


1872-3. La descendance de l'homme et la sélection sexuelle.
Vol. 1 Image PDF F1058.1
Vol. 2 Image PDF F1058.2

1891. La descendance de l'homme et la sélection sexuelle. Text Image PDF (Interim images from Bibliothèque nationale de France F1062


1871[-2]. Die Abstammung des Menschen und die geschlechtliche Zuchtwahl. Translated by J. V. Carus. 2d ed. Stuttgart: Schweizerbart.
Vol. 1 Text Image PDF F1065.1
Vol. 2 Image PDF F1065.2

1875. Die Abstammung des Menschen und die geschlechtliche Zuchtwahl. 3d ed. (Provided by
Vol. 1. Text Image PDF F1066.1
Vol. 2. Text Image PDF F1066.2


1875-6. Dobór płciowy.
Vol. 1 Image PDF F1101b.1
Vol. 2 Image PDF F1101b.2

1884. O pochodzeniu człowieka. 2d Polish ed. Image PDF F1101a


1880. El origen del hombre: la seleccion natural y la sexual. Text Image PDF F1122b


1926. Die Oyfstammung fun menschen. Image PDF F1139


From: Freeman, R. B. 1977. The Works of Charles Darwin: An Annotated Bibliographical Handlist. 2nd edn. Dawson: Folkstone.

NOTE: With thanks to The Charles Darwin Trust and Dr Mary Whitear for use of the Bibliographical Handlist. Copyright. All rights reserved. For private academic use only. Not for republication or reproduction in whole or in part without the prior written consent of The Charles Darwin Trust, 14 Canonbury Park South London N1 2JJ.

Corrections and additions copyright The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online - National University of Singapore.


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