DARWIN, Charles (1809-1882). Manual of Geology. London: W. Clowes and Sons, 1859.

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DARWIN, Charles (1809-1882). Manual of Geology. London: W. Clowes and Sons, 1859.


8vo., (6 6/8 x 5 inches). Original publisher's cloth-backed printed grey stiff paper wrappers

RARE, AND AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE COPY, in near mint condition, of the second separately printed issue of Darwin's contribution to the Admiralty Manual of Scientific Enquiry, and first issued there as "Geology" in 1849. Edited, and with an important essay on Meteorology, by Sir John Frederick William Herschel (1792–1871), the aim of the Manual... in "the opinion of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty [was] that it would be to the honour and advantage of the Navy, and conduce to the general interests of Science, if new facilities and encouragement were given to the collection of information upon scientific subjects by the officers, and more particularly by the medical officers, of Her Majesty's Navy, when upon foreign service; and their Lordships are desirous that for this purpose a Manual be compiled, giving general instructions for observation and for record in various branches of science. Their Lordships do not consider it necessary that this Manual should be one of very deep and abstruse research. Its directions should not require the use of nice apparatus and instruments: they should be generally plain, so that men merely of good intelligence and fair acquirement may be able to act upon them; yet, in pointing out objects, and methods of observation and record, they might still serve as a guide to officers of high attainment: and it will be for their Lordships to consider whether some pecuniary reward or promotion may not be given to those who succeed in producing eminently useful results" (Preface to the first edition in 1849).

Charles Darwin completed his chapter on Geology in March of 1848, many years after the focus of his attention had turned to his theories of the transmutation and evolution of species, for which his is now celebrated. Nevertheless, one his earliest scientific interests was geology, and one of his earliest scientific mentors was the founder of modern geology, Adam Sedgwick (1785–1873). He attended Sedgwick's geology lectures in the spring of 1831, and in August accompanied Sedgwick to north Wales for two weeks in the field. "It was the best possible training,.. Sedgwick built up Darwin's expertise and self-confidence, introducing him to some of the most perplexing geological issues of the day" (DNB). Upon his return Darwin was offered the position of resident naturalist about the Beagle, that was to change his life, and the course of science forever.

In this very rare offprint, his "Manual of Geology", Darwin explains patiently the practical ways in which geology can be studied upon the high seas: "A person embarked on a naval expedition, who wishes to attend to Geology, is placed in a position in some respects highly advantageous, and in others as much to the contrary... He is borne on the ocean, from which most sedimentary formations have been deposited. During the soundings which are so frequently carried on, he is excellently placed for studying the nature of the bottom, and the distribution of the living organisms and dead remains strewed over it. Again, on sea-shores, he can watch the breakers slowly eating into the coast-cliffs, and he can examine their action under various circumstances: he here sees that going on in an infinitesimally small scale which has planed down whole continents, levelled mountain-ranges, hollowed out great valleys, and exposed over wide areas rocks which must have been formed or modified whilst heated under enormous pressure. Again, as almost every active volcano is situated close to, or within a few leagues of, the sea, he is admirably situated for investigating volcanic phenomena, which, in their striking aspect and simplicity, are well adapted to encourage him to his studies" (pages [3]-4).

Clearly Darwin put these methods to practical use himself during his voyage on the Beagle, and with spectacular results. Adam Sedgwick read Darwin's "Geological notes made during a survey of the east and west coasts of S. America, in the years 1832, 1833, 1834 and 1835, with an account of a transverse section of the Cordilleras of the Andes between Valparaiso and Mendoza" to the Geological Society in 1835; he read his first scientific paper, "Observations of proofs of recent elevation on the coast of Chile" on January 4th, 1837, as a new fellow of the Geological Society of London. He published a trilogy of books about the geology of the voyage of the Beagle: "The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs: being the first part of the Geology of the Voyage of the Beagle", London: Smith, Elder, 1842; "Geological Observations on the Volcanic Islands visited during the voyage of H.M.S Beagle, together with some brief notices on the geology of Australia and the Cape of Good Hope. Being the second part of the Geology of the Voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. Fitzroy, R.N. during the years 1832 to 1836", London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1844; "Geological Observations on South America. Being the third part of the Geology of the Voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. Fitzroy, R.N. during the years 1832 to 1836", London: Stewart & Murray for Smith, Elder & Co., 1846. Adrian Desmond and James Moore, and Janet Browne for DNB; Freeman 330. Catalogued by Kate Hunter