Variation under Domestication

An introduction by R. B. Freeman

This represents the only section of Darwin's big book on the origin of species which was printed in his lifetime and corresponds to its first two intended chapters. A second section, on natural selection, has been transcribed from the manuscript notes by R. C. Stauffer and appeared in 1975 (F1583). The Russian title of F925, which is described below, reads, in translation, 'On the origin of species. Section I.' etc., and shows that as late as 1867 Darwin still intended to go ahead with the whole. But, when the first English edition was ready, in 1868, he did not use the full title.

A large part of it contains detailed facts about artificial selection and discussion of them, but it also contains, in Chapter XXVII, his provisional hypothesis of pangenesis; one which he thought was new, but has a long back history. It is his longest work and, being so detailed, was never a very successful one, selling only about five thousand copies in his life time and eight before the end of the century.

The first edition in English, of 1868, was in two volumes demy octavo, the only Murray Darwin to appear in this format, and it occurs in two issues. 1,500 copies of the first were published on January 30th, having been held up for the completion of the index. Murray had sold 1,250 at his autumn sale in the previous year and Life and letters (Vol. III, p. 99) states that the whole issue was sold out in a week. This statement must mean that the booksellers had taken them up, because there was no method of knowing whether the public had actually bought them. The second, of 1,250 copies, was issued in February. The title pages are identical and neither the cases nor the inserted advertisements are certain means of distinguishing them. They are most easily distinguished by their errata. In the first issue there are five on page vi of Vol. I, and nine in seven lines on page viii of Vol. II. In the second all these have been corrected, but a single new one is given on page vi of Vol. I. The two issues have considerable textual differences, and Darwin himself refers, in More letters (Vol. I, pp. 320-321), to one of these which occurs in a footnote on page 404 of the first volume of the second issue. It is a story of the progeny of a hairless dog in support of the, erroneous, idea of telegony.

The inserted advertisements cannot always, as is sometimes stated, be used to distinguish them. In Vol. I there are usually, but by no means always, 32 pages dated April 1867. In Vol. II there is one leaf of advertisements, in both issues, dated February 1868; this is not inserted, as usually stated, but is part of the book (214) and should therefore be present in all copies. Copies in publisher's cloth can usually be distinguished by the spine titling. The cases of both are in a characteristic green cloth, which is smooth, and the top and bottom rules on the spine are in a style not found elsewhere. In the first issue the imprint is in one line 'LONDON, JOHN MURRAY.'; whereas in the second it is in two 'LONDON/JOHN MURRAY.' Copies of the second issue do occur with one line imprints, without any indication that they have been transferred, but rarely. Pairs also exist, with contemporary inscriptions in both volumes, in which the first volume is of the second issue and the second of the first. I have never seen a pair the other way round. The price of both issues was £1. 8s. for the two volumes.

The text was extensively altered for the second edition of 1875, and the format was reduced to the usual crown octavo. The case is in arches style, with 32 pages of inserted advertisements dated January 1876 or later. This is the final text and later issues, to 1899, are from stereos. The case changes to standard form in the fifth thousand in 1885, but I have seen a set of this date, and another of 1888 and 1893, in which Vol. I is in arches style and Vol. II is in standard, although in both the volumes had clearly been bought together. I have also seen a set of 1888 with both volumes in arches style.

The last Murray edition, which was reset and had the illustrations transferred to twenty-four plates, appeared in 1905. In America, the first edition, based on the first English, appeared from Orange Judd in 1868. It is based on the second London issue and has a short preface explaining this, as well as three pages of factual corrections date March 28, 1868. This text is thus the definitive one of the first edition. The second, from English stereos, was put out by Appleton. There has been a recent facsimile, based on the second issue of the first edition, from Brussels. The book was translated into French, German, Italian and Russian in Darwin's lifetime, and into a further four languages since. The first Russian edition, which is dated 1868 on the volume title page, is of particular interest. It is the only work, in his lifetime, of which any part appeared in foreign translation before it appeared in English. Correspondence at Cambridge shows that the translator was sent copies of corrected proofs as they were ready. It was published in seven parts of which four, perhaps to the end of Chapter XV, appeared in 1867; the next two appeared in 1868, and the last not until 1869, because he had been away in Russian Asia. The title is given in full, in English translation, under F925 and has been discussed above.

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1868. The variation of animals and plants under domestication. 1st ed., 1st issue.
Vol. 1. Text Image PDF F877.1
Vol. 2. Text Image PDF F877.2

1868. The variation of animals and plants under domestication. 1st ed., 2d issue.
Vol. 1. Text Image PDF F878.1
Vol. 2. Text Image PDF F878.2 (NHM copy: Image PDF)

[1868]. The variation of animals and plants under domestication. New York: Judd. Preface by Asa Gray. 1st American ed.
Vol. 1 Text Image PDF F879.1
Vol. 1 Image PDF F879.2

1875. The variation of animals and plants under domestication. 2d ed. (Final text)
Vol. 1. Text Image PDF F880.1
Vol. 2. Text Image PDF F880.2


1957-58. 动物和植物在家养下的变异. 叶笃庄, 方宗熙译. 北京: 北京科学出版社.
Vol. 1 PDF F909a.1
Vol. 2 PDF F909a.2

1973. 动物和植物在家养下的变异. 叶笃庄, 方宗熙译. 北京: 北京科学出版社. PDF F909d


[1889-1890]. Het varieeren van huisdieren en cultuurplanten.
Vol. 1. PDF F910.1
Vol. 2. PDF F910.2


1868. De la variation des animaux et des plantes sous l'action de la domestication.
Vol. 1 Image PDF F912.1
Vol. 2 Image PDF F912.2

1879-80. De la variation des animaux et des plantes à l'état domestique.
Vol. 1 Text Image PDF F913.1
Vol. 2 Text Image PDF F913.2


1868. Das Variiren der Thiere und Pflanzen im Zustande der Domestication.
Vol. 1. Image PDF F914.1
Vol. 2. Image PDF F914.2


1876. Variazione degli animali e delle piante allo stato domestico. Image PDF F920


1888-9. Zmienność zwierząt i roślin w stanie kultury.
Vol. 1 Image PDF F922.1
Vol. 2 Image PDF F922.2

1959. Zmienność zwierząt i roślin w stanie udomowienia.
vol. 1 PDF F923.1
vol. 2 PDF F923.2


1963. Variaţia animalelor şi plantelor sub influenţa domesticirii. PDF F924



From: Freeman, R. B. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d ed. 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, 31 Baalbec Road, London N5 1QN.

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


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