When Charles Darwin‘s On the Origin of Species was first published in 1859, only 1,250 copies of the book were printed. Subsequent printings were not much larger, 3,000 at the most, despite five additional editions published through 1872.
The collections of SMU’s DeGolyer Library include a copy of each of the six editions published in Darwin’s lifetime, as well as the numerous impressions made for each edition – including more than 60 volumes printed through 1890. Those editions form the nucleus of a major exhibit about the father of evolution.
“On the Origin of Species: Texts and Contexts for Charles Darwin’s Great Work” will appear Sept. 8-Dec. 9, 2009, as part of “Darwin’s Evolving Legacy,” SMU’s yearlong celebration honoring both the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s seminal text and the 200th anniversary of his birth. The exhibition will be accompanied by comments from the popular press of the time, as well as other books and publications by Darwin, including his famous The Voyage of the Beagle.
“The Charles Darwin collection is one of the hidden jewels in the library. While we are best known, perhaps, for our Western Americana and railroadiana, our books and journals in the history of science are extraordinary,” says Russell Martin, DeGolyer Library director.
“We hope the exhibit will be a visual feast,” Martin adds. “We”ll get to see how the book itself evolved over time – text, bindings – and how Darwin fit into the scientific and popular literature of his day. Many of the books are annotated by former readers, so we can see the notes his contemporaries made.”