The Descent of Man

and Selection in Relation to Sex

Charles Darwin

Introduced by Richard Dawkins

Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man applies his revolutionary theory to human evolution. This exceptional Folio collector’s edition is introduced by Richard Dawkins and includes numerous colour illustrations, as well as diagrams and figures. 

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‘We’re still trying to figure out how evolution by natural selection […] applies to every aspect of life on Earth, from virulence in coronaviruses to human social behaviour’
  1. The New York Review

In 1871, 12 years after the publication of On the Origin of Species, Darwin finally revealed evidence for his most controversial theory. In The Descent of Man he reasons that, far from being superior to the rest of nature, humans actually have a distant common ancestor with apes. Darwin’s visionary boldness continues to shape our notion of what it is that makes us human, and this striking Folio edition celebrates the importance of his theory. Introduced by Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene, the edition is illustrated with 32 pages of colour plates, including drawings, paintings and diagrams, which elaborate Darwin’s theory and showcase the beauty of the living world. A screen-printed binding design by renowned illustrator David Eccles completes this essential collector’s edition.

‘The sole object of this work is to consider, firstly, whether man, like every other species, is descended from some pre-existing form; secondly, the manner of his development; and thirdly, the value of the differences between the so-called races of man.’
  1. From the author’s introduction

Bound in buckram, blocked and screen-printed with a design by David Eccles

Set in Baskerville

776 pages

60 integrated scientific line drawings

Frontispiece and 32 pages of colour plates

Coloured tops

Plain slipcase

10″ x 6¾″

To demonstrate his extraordinary hypothesis, Darwin unveiled a new theory of sexual selection, which he supported with a kaleidoscope of observations. Among these we find his captivating descriptions of the plumage of birds of paradise, the remarkable colouring of the male mandrill and the dangerous mating habits of the nephila spider. However, it is the final section of his book that revolutionised contemporary ideas of what constituted man’s place in the world. Here, Darwin collated all his evidence to prove that many of the attributes which we regard as distinctly human – language, reason, morality, memory and imagination – are actually shared with animals. And so it is, 150 years after publication, that the theory put forward in The Descent of Man remains relevant, while the sheer quality of Darwin’s prose ensures his work remains essential and diverting reading.

Richard Dawkins is best known for his book The Selfish Gene, a startling theory about species that is considered one of the most important scientific works of the 20th century. For his introduction to this edition, Dawkins traces the fascinating history of the The Descent of Man’s massive undertaking and its groundbreaking revelations, as well as its place in scientific history, from publication to the present day. The numerous lithographs, watercolours and engravings that illustrate this edition are exquisite examples of Victorian naturalist art, each reproduced in exceptional quality. They include work by renowned ornithologist-artists John Gould and John James Audubon, and the engraver George Edwards. A number of black-and-white figures are also integrated in the text to further elucidate Darwin’s case studies, and these demonstrate the beauty and complexity of the human and animal species that are discussed.

Charles Robert Darwin was born in 1809 in Shropshire. He came from a wealthy and intellectual family and he went on to study Divinity at Cambridge. He was interested in natural science from a young age, and when he was 22 he was offered a place on HMS Beagle to work as a natural scientist on voyage to South America. The Voyage of HMS Beagle (1839) was his account of the voyage and of the flora and fauna he collected. It was during this voyage that he developed many of his theories and he went on to write On the Origin of Species (1859), a book that garnered both attention and contention. Darwin died in 1882 and was given a state burial at Westminster Abbey.

Richard Dawkins was born in 1941 in Nairobi. He studied at the University of Oxford, where he gained a degree in Zoology, an MA and a PhD. From 1967 to 1969 he lived in America and became an assistant professor of zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. On his return to the UK he went back to the University of Oxford, this time as a lecturer. Dawkins is best known for his book The Selfish Gene (1976) but has published numerous other books, including The Blind Watchmaker (1986), Climbing Mount Improbable (1996) and The God Delusion (2006).


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