On the Origin of the Species
written by Charles Darwin
The Folio Society | ISBN 88OOSFOLIO
Hardback – 448 pages
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When first published in 1859, its central theory - that the natural order was not permanent and unchanging but a gradual process of evolution - met with fierce opposition. How dare any man challenge the concept of divine creation? But the first edition sold out within a day (it has remained in print ever since), its author was declared the most dangerous man in England, and a new era in human thought had begun. The seeds of Darwin's explosive ideas had planted themselves in his mind when, as a young scientist on a five-year voyage of exploration on board HMS Beagle, he tramped around the tropical forests of Brazil, made sketches of the fossil-packed strata of Patagonia, experienced the geological drama of the Andes, and encountered the extraordinary animal life of the Galapagos Islands. But, on his return, a fear of the probable impact of his discoveries also took root. Darwin was himself a deeply religious man and, unsurprisingly perhaps, spent twenty years in rigorous intellectual enquiry, exhaustive experiments and soul-searching before, finally, an anxiety that someone else would get there first spurred him to go public.
In its essence, On the Origin of Species is the story of how life, once begun, developed in its amazing diversity and complexity; the story of a world in which species have come and gone, adapting themselves to changing climates and environments as best they could; the story of the survival of the fittest. That it remains one of the most dazzling and influential books ever written is a testament to the immense energy and startling simplicity with which Darwin makes his revelations.