Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection. A Series of Essays

By: Wallace, Alfred Russel

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Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection. A Series of Essays by Wallace, Alfred Russel
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London: Macmillan, 1870. First edition. Original publishers cloth, gilt spine lettering, octavo, xvi, 384 pages + 44 pages of publisher's adverts . A couple of gatherings slightly shaken, top-margin of the title-page bears the cursive name of a previous owner, some marginalia and scattered underlining in lead pencil, cloth a little rubbed and flecked. Contemporary presentation copy neatly inscribed on the verso of the front free endpaper "From the Publishers". A clean and attractive copy in very good order. Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) remains one of the founding fathers of nineteenth century evolutionary theory that has moulded and informed modern science more than any other single conceptual revolution. Wallace was a man of wide and varied ability, working in the course of a long career as an educator, political advocate and essayist. It is his collaboration with Charles Darwin as joint promoters of evolutionary theory, especially the paradigm of natural selection, that is of greatest importance. Wallace began his South East Asian travels in 1854, observing a marked faunal change between the Australasian and Asiatic geographical regions. Further meditations on the theme resulted in a theory of evolutionary selection by elimination. Wallace communicated his ideas to Darwin who had nourished a parallel stream of thought for the last twenty odd years and the publication of the 'Origin of Species' ensued. The professional relationship between the two men remained cordial and co-operative although Darwin enjoyed the lion's share of publicity surrounded with the evolutionary controversy. In the light of the negative nature of much of this public attention, Wallace's diminutive position seems understandable. The present first edition of 'Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection' is a highly significant book in the history of nineteenth century scientific discovery. The papers are diverse in nature, having been published or read to respective learned societies over the fifteen years prior to publication. Some essays are specialist anatomical discussions while others embrace more general conceptual issues concerning evolutionary theory generally.

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