First editions, first printings. Two volumes. 8vo. Publisher's original red cloth with gilt titles to the spines. A very good set, the bindings square and firm with minor nicks to the head of the spine of "Vestiges", minor cracking to the inner-hinges and chipping with loss to the spine ends of "Explanations", the corners of both volumes a little bumped. The contents of "Vestiges" with minor toning to page edges and the occasional minor mark to a couple of page margins are otherwise in excellent order, clean throughout, and without previous owners' inscriptions or stamps. The contents of "Explanations" with a small contemporary bookseller's ticket to the front pastedown, minor toning to page edges, the odd marginal mark, a few faint pencil underlings, a very minor water mark to the rear pastedown/free endpaper, and an original paper flaw to p.59, are otherwise in very good condition. All in all, an attractive and appealing set in entirely original unsophisticated condition.
The first full-length exposition of an evolutionary theory in English and the most important precursor to Darwin's Origin. "This outspoken statement of a belief in evolution, published anonymously to protect Chambers' reputation as a publisher, anticipated Darwin's Origin by 16 years (Garrison and Morton, p.218). Bringing "together a large variety of data from both geology and the life sciences to support the idea of the origin of species through a process of transmutation... It played a significant role in the history of mid-nineteenth century biology by making evolutionism a commonplace topic of discussion", becoming a sensational best-seller, read widely by the intellectual and cultural elite, and thus easing the way for Darwin's own writings (Norman). Notably, the work also contains what is probably the first discussion of computing within the context of biology, with Chambers demonstrating "that evolutionary change occurring over long periods of time could be seen as similar to the workings of Babbage's Difference Engine, programmed from the beginning of its operation to produce in sequence several different series of numbers according to a succession of mathematical rules". Vestiges, in fact, served to significantly aid public understanding of Babbage's work, with his ideas receiving "a much wider circulation through Chamber's text than through the two editions of the "Ninth Bridgewater Treatise" (Hook et al., Origins of Cyberspace, p.147). The October 1844 first edition of Vestiges consisted of 750 copies with a second edition of 1000 copies quickly following in December. The book was constantly revised, with Chambers refining arguments, addressing criticism and reacting to new scientific publications. Late in 1845, largely in response to Adam Sedgwick's review of the work in the Edinburgh Review, Chamber's wrote "Explanations: A Sequel to Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation", consisting of 1,500 copies, and which was subsequently appended to later editions (DSB III:192). The 11th edition of 1860 included a three page discussion of Darwin's recently published Origin, a book which, according to historian James A. Secord, Vestiges outsold up until the early 20th century. It was not until the 12th edition of 1884 in the preface written by his friend Alexander Ireland, that Robert Chambers was revealed to have written Vestiges, ending several decades of public speculation that had named everyone from Prince Albert to Darwin himself as the potential author. [Secord, Victorian Sensation, The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (2001)].
Stock code: 18098