London: J. Johnson in St. Paul’s Church-yard. 1st Edition. TRUE 1st EDITION OF ERASMUS DARWIN'S MOST IMPORTANT WORK, THIS CONTAINING HIS THEORY OF EVOLUTION INCLUDING EVOLUTION OF SPECIES, COMPETITION AND SEXUAL SELECTION. Volume I was issued in 1794; Volume II in 1796. “The Zoonomia contains a system of pathology and a treatise on generation” [reproduction] (Garrison & Morton). Darwin’s ideas about animal adaption and sexual selection argue that ‘one and the same kind of living filaments is and has been the cause of life’” (ibid).
Erasmus Darwin (1732-1802) was a remarkable polymath, working as a physician, naturalist, medical botanist, and inventor. He was also Charles Darwin’s grandfather. While not generally recognized, Erasmus Darwin had a theory of evolution that predated that of his grandson. He “struggled with the question of how one species could evolve into another… [writing] about what we now call competition and sexual selection: ‘The final course of this contest among males seems to be, that the strongest and most active animal should propagate the species which should be thus improved’” (Rice, Encyclopedia of Evolution, 113). Darwin writes here of how life evolved from a single common ancestor, and how one species could evolve into another – an idea upon which his grandson must surely have drawn. “It is interesting to note that although Charles Darwin wrote that while he had read Zoonomia as a young man, it had had no effect on him; the first draft of On the Origin of Species was, however, entitled Zoonomia” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography, III, 578-9). Item #1461
CONDITION & DETAILS: London : Printed for J. Johnson, in St. Paul's Church-Yard, -96. Complete. 4to. (28 X 21 inches). Volume I: 4, [viii], 586, , 4 (fully indexed). Volume II: 6, [xi], 772, , 4 (fully indexed). Plates complete with several hand-colored. Handsomely bound with some spotting to the boards (see photo). 5 raised bands at the spine; gilt-tooling in the compartments; gilt-lettered black Morocco spine labels. Marbled endpapers. Bright and exceptionally clean throughout. Very good +.