The Origin of Species (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

On December 27, 1831, the young naturalist Charles Darwin left Plymouth Harbor aboard the HMS Beagle. For the next five years, he conducted research on plants and animals from around the globe, amassing a body of evidence that would culminate in one of the greatest discoveries in the history of mankind—the theory of evolution.

Darwin presented his stunning insights in a landmark book that forever altered the way human beings view themselves and the world they live in. In The Origin of Species, he convincingly demonstrates the fact of evolution: that existing animals and plants cannot have appeared separately but must have slowly transformed from ancestral creatures. Most important, the book fully explains the mechanism that effects such a transformation: natural selection, the idea that made evolution scientifically intelligible for the first time.

One of the few revolutionary works of science that is engrossingly readable, The Origin of Species not only launched the science of modern biology but also has influenced virtually all subsequent literary, philosophical, and religious thinking.

George Levine, Kenneth Burke Professor of English Literature at Rutgers University, has written extensively about Darwin and the relation of science and literature, particularly in Darwin and the Novelists. He is the author of many related books, including The Realistic Imagination, Dying to Know, and his birdwatching memoirs, Lifebirds.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593080778
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 1/1/2004
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 86,858
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Darwin
George Levine, Kenneth Burke Professor of English Literature at Rutgers University, has written extensively about Darwin and the relation of science and literature, particularly in Darwin and the Novelists. He is the author of many related books, including The Realistic Imagination, Dying to Know, and his birdwatching memoirs, Lifebirds.

Biography

Robert Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England, on February 12, 1809, into a wealthy and highly respected family. His grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, was a doctor and the author of many works, including his well-known Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life, which suggested a theory of evolution. Charles's father, Robert Waring Darwin, was also a prosperous doctor; his mother, Susannah, was the daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, founder of the renowned Wedgwood potteries. The Darwins and the Wedgwoods had close and long-standing relations, and Charles was to marry his cousin, Emma Wedgwood.

In 1825 at age sixteen, Darwin matriculated at Edinburgh University to study medicine. There, his early interest in natural history developed, and he studied particularly crustaceans, sea creatures, and beetles. Nauseated by the sight of blood, however, he decided that medicine was not his vocation, left Edinburgh in 1827 and entered Christ's College, Cambridge University, with no clear sense of possible vocation, theology itself being an option. At Cambridge he became friends with J. S. Henslow, a clergyman who was also professor of botany. Although Darwin was to graduate from Cambridge with a B.A. in theology, he spent much time with Henslow, developing his interest in natural science. It was Henslow who secured a position for Darwin on an exploratory expedition aboard the HMS Beagle.

In December 1831, the year he graduated from Cambridge, Darwin embarked upon a five-year voyage to Africa and South America, acting as a companion to the captain, Robert Fitzroy. Darwin spent more time in land expeditions than at sea, where he was always seasick, but during the long voyages he continued his collecting and, cramped in his tiny cabin, meticulously wrote up his ideas. Several years after his return, at the time of the birth of his first son, William, Darwin fell ill. It is conjectured that while in South America he had contracted Chagas's disease, but whatever the cause, the effects were debilitating for the rest of Darwin's life.

By the time he returned to London in 1835, many of his letters, some to scientists like Charles Lyell and Adam Sedgwick, had been read before scientific societies, and he was already a well known and respected naturalist. His first published book, an account of his voyage aboard the Beagle, entitled Journal of Researches, appeared in 1839 and was widely popular. He married the same year; soon after, the family moved from London to a secluded house at Down, in Kent, where Darwin wrote initial sketches of his theory and then preparing himself for the full exposition, spent eight years writing a detailed set of definitive monographs on barnacles.

In 1858, when Darwin was halfway through writing his book, "Natural Selection," A. R. Wallace sent him a paper called, "On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type." In language similar to Darwin's own, Wallace laid out the argument for natural selection. Wallace asked Darwin to help get the paper published -- obviously an alarming development for a man who had given twenty years of his life to getting the argument for natural selection right. Darwin's scientific friends advised him to gather materials giving evidence of his priority but to have the Wallace paper read before the Linnaean Society, along with a brief account of his own ideas. Immediately after the reading, Darwin began work on his "abstract" of "Natural Selection." The result was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, published in 1859. Despite the controversy it generated, it was an immense success and went through five more editions in Darwin's lifetime.

Darwin devoted the rest of his life to researching and writing scientific treatises, drawing on his notebooks and corresponding with scientists all over the world, and thus developing and modifying parts of his larger argument.

Darwin never traveled again and much of his scientific work was done in his own garden and study at home. Others, particularly his "bulldog," T. H. Huxley, fought the battle for evolution publicly, and as Darwin remained quietly ailing at home, his family grew -- he had ten children -- and so did his reputation. Although he was always ill with symptoms that made it impossible for him to work full days, he produced an enormous volume of work. His death, on April 19, 1882, was a national event. Despite the piety of his wife, Emma, Darwin had fallen away from religion as he reflected both on the way nature worked and on the way his favorite daughter, Annie, died painfully from an unknown feverish illness, when she was ten. Nevertheless, ironically, he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Origin of Species.

Good To Know

Darwin was born on the same day as U.S. president Abraham Lincoln.

He broke his longtime snuff habit by keeping his snuff box in the basement and the key to it in the attic.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      February 12, 1809
    2. Place of Birth:
      Shrewsbury, England
    1. Date of Death:
      April 19, 1882
    2. Place of Death:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      B.A. in Theology, Christ’s College, Cambridge University, 1831

Read an Excerpt

From George Levine's Introduction to On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859)1 is one of the major books of Western civilization, and possibly the last major scientific text fully readable by nonscientists. It was written before the full force of scientific specialization had created the division we are used to today: science written for scientists, and intelligible only to them, or popular science aimed not at being science but at explaining it, and (usually) making otherwise too difficult scientific ideas attractive to the nonexpert.

Darwin was certainly writing for scientists, but he knew that his book would be read by many nonprofessionals, and by many who were deeply invested in the religious and cultural implications of his ideas. The book is thus a work of real science, offering the strongest possible technical arguments for its ideas, while at that same time it does much of the work of popular science. But Darwin was never a popularizer like his "bulldog" and partisan, T. H. Huxley (also a distinguished scientist), who took upon himself the job of fighting all the fights, particularly the cultural ones, that Darwin's ideas were to arouse. More than a hundred years later, and despite the triumph of his ideas in the world of science, Darwin continues to need his bulldogs, for the very availability of his text to lay readers makes it particularly susceptible to critique from the whole spectrum of cultural and religious critics, many of whom do not seem really to understand its arguments. The upside of this condition is that the book has survived longer than virtually all other scientific texts—whose usual life span is necessarily very short because science moves so quickly. Its ideas remain important, and they are well and lucidly argued. Evolution, the dominant idea with which Darwin's name is permanently associated (though he didn't actually use the word), was promulgated and firmly established in The Origin of Species. And we can still read the book now, even without the help of Huxley or the modern polymath popularizer and scientist Stephen Jay Gould.

This is not to say it is an "easy" book, or one that prima facie will thrill lay readers out for a good read. It really is a good read, despite (or, one might say, because of) the rigor of its argument and the almost overwhelming accumulation of details deployed in support; but it is deceptively simple. No book with so clear and well argued a position has been so variously interpreted and so widely misunderstood; few have been as difficult for its readers fully to absorb. The simple argument is so fundamentally anti-intuitive that even now, after 150 years, it has been difficult not to distort it in directions more comfortably consistent with readers' assumptions about the way the world is. Reading the book remains an adventure, and the activity of imagining Darwin's prolific, diverse, and often very beautiful world continues to be an exciting challenge to one's tacit assumptions about the way the world works.

The Origin of Species is not only a fundamental work in the history of science; it is a unique book in the history of English literature. There are few as important. That Darwin was a great scientist everyone knows, but it is not immediately obvious that he was a great writer as well. Yet no writer of the nineteenth century had to struggle more strenuously with the limits of language, none was more imaginatively and creatively metaphorical, few were more influential in shaping other writers' imagination of the world: none had a more significant and lasting effect on Western culture.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 90 )
Rating Distribution

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(53)

4 Star

(11)

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(14)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 90 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Origin of Species

    Most people are at least familiar with the theory of natural selection, but that is not to say that they are familiar with what Darwin actually said in Origin and how he said it. Thus I agree with the reviewers who say this is essential reading.

    Although Darwin says it is "one long argument", it is in fact two: that the diversity of life shares a common ancestry, and second that this divergence came about primarily as a result of natural selection. One other reviewer said it was hard to keep focussed on the argument, if this is the case I recommend you start with Darwin's intro, chapters 3, 4, 6 and 14. This gives the basic argument. You might then go back and fill in.

    There are a number of re-editions of Origin out there, especially given the recent 150th anniversary of its publication, so why choose this one?

    Above all it is an ideal student edition (and I include here anyone who reads critically): it is cheap, has abundant margins for notes, and is as lightweight a paperback as you will find for a 400 page book. The type is large and accessible, and the introduction by George Levine is, at 20 pages, short enough to hold one's interest while with enough content to warrant its inclusion. Also, given all the recent re-editions available there are few that provide the 1859 text of the first edition. This one does.

    This is important if you want to know how Darwin originally presented his ideas. Later editions (there were six in total, the last published in 1876) included clarifications and answers to specific later objections. As a result the first edition reads better and is a more straightforward argument. If you are a Darwin scholar you will probably want to engage with these later editions - the sixth is widely available, for the others you can find them in specialist libraries (the University of Oklahoma has the lot!), or now also in beautifully scanned editions through the Darwin online website.

    This is not the place to go into the detail of what gets added to the later editions, but if this book gets you hooked you might want to take your Darwin studies further. Perhaps the most notable and certainly the most famous addition is the insertion from the second edition onwards of the words "by the Creator" into the poetic last paragraph of the book (There is grandeur in this view of life... ) This is interesting stuff: was Darwin seeking to clarify that he saw evolution as God's mechanism for creating the awesome diversity of life that we see around us? Or, was this a judicious attempt to allay theological concerns that distracted his readers from the science? The jury is still out on this. Darwin certainly wrote to his friend and confidante Joseph Hooker that he later regretted "truckling to public opinion", but he did not remove the insertion from later editions. In his autobiography, written towards the end of his life, he confided that while he had gradually lost his faith in a personal God, he recognized that others had found natural selection quite compatible with religious belief, most notably the Anglican theologian Charles Kingsley and the American botanist and Presbyterian, Asa Gray.

    There is so much in this book that it will keep you coming back. You might also want to take this further: Although Darwin only hinted at human evolution in Origin, he addressed that hot potato explicitly in Descent of Man.

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2011

    You don't have to believe

    It's not a matter of opinion. Evolution occurs. Denying it won't make it go away. Start here to understand the basics.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2012

    Beautiful Book

    I'm a devout Catholic with a strong interest in biology and genetics so I must say that this is one of the greatest and influential books of all time. Thanks to Darwin's well-thought out theory, we have been allowed to advance our understanding of life and find cures for human diseases that would have been impossible to discover with out this knowledge. Biology is useless without evolution. I believe everyone should read this book regardless of their faith. I'm a believer but I certainly don't believe in a God that gave us a beautiful and wonderous world for us to not explore and learn about. I also don't think Darwin would like us to still be fighting over this.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2012

    Origin of Species

    You'd have to be into these kinda things I guess

    2 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    a great scientific information compilation, just too confusing.

    This book is STRICTLY for professors or science scholars whom may wish to broaden their horizons on the THEORY, not fact, of evolution. As a matter of fact, the word "evolved" is only mentioned 1 time throughout the book, being the very last word of the book. He talks more on the difficulties on his theory rather than the "facts" on his theory; he has at least 3 chapters that are strictly and solely devoted to the refuting of evolution. Unless you are a science whiz or professor, you ARE going to get lost on more than one occasion throughout this volume. The beginning chapters are fairly easy to understand, but at about chapter 5 you can get lost rather quickly because he jumps from subject to subject that are completely irrelevant. Overall, this book is a great scientific compilation of information and scrutinizingly pain-staking experiments through trial and error and is recommended for those who can distinguish between ammonites, batrachians, cirripedes, hemiptera, and the many other scientific terms he may use without looking at the glossary of terms in the back, which I must say does come in handy after the 2nd chapter.

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2012

    Excellent

    As a long-time agnostic, I personally don't think humans will ever discover our origins. That being said, I love this book. It's interesting and well-written. It goes beyond being a classic - it's a work of art. On a seperate note, I snorted ginger ale out my nose when I read the April 10 review. I really, really, REALLY hope that person was joking...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2012

    z

    EVOLUTION DOES NOT HAPPEN!!!!! IF WE HAD "EVOLVED" THEN WHY ARE THERE STILL MONKEYS!!!!!!!!!!

    1 out of 42 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2011

    Not just a classic, but a masterpiece

    One of the most important works in the scientific literature, The Origin renains indispensible reading for those wishing to understand the evolution of species as well as the evolution of Reason. A perfect work? No. But cannonical texts are the sphere of religion, not of science. Still, there is much here to amaze and delight --- and to astound the reader as to the range and depth of Darwin's thinking on this subject.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 28, 2011

    It depends upon your intent

    If you want the essentials of Darwin's twin hypotheses of descent with modification and of natural selection then you are probably better off with an abridgment of about 100 pages. Such an abridgment is most suitable for students whose time is strictly limited.

    On the other hand if you already have an understanding of Darwin's arguments then the full treatment makes for rewarding reading, particularly for those with an interest in the history and sociology of science.

    Darwin was fully aware of the revolutionary nature of his ideas and it is instructive to see how he developed his arguments based upon the perceived strengths and weaknesses in their 19th century contexts. He was preternatural in developing his arguments in the absence of known mechanisms relating modified descent with natural selection. Of course the "modern synthesis" via later understandings of population and molecular genetics provide those linkages.

    It is ironic that Mendel's work was nearly contemporaneous with that of Darwin but he wasn't rediscovered until the beginning of the 20th century--too late to be of any use to Charles Darwin.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    important and valuable

    *I'm rating this book on how important I think it is....not how much I enjoyed it

    It has taken me all of the summer thus far to complete The Origin of Species. It is a very tedious and analytical read. I found my mind wandering while I was reading this and I don't think I retained half of what I read. I do understand Darwin's main ideas though. Charles Darwin was a very insightful man who has had such a great impact on science and society as a whole. Did I enjoy this book? Not really. Do I think this is an important and valuable book? Absolutely!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 18, 2009

    A Seminal Scientific and Cultural Work

    Aptly called the "book that shook the world," Darwin's On the Origin of Species should be required reading for all, regardless of academic background or ideological stripe. Darwin tempers his strong conviction in "evolution by means of natural selection" with tact and a keen awareness of the prevailing belief in independent creation. The first part of the book (chapters 1-5) establishes the central premises behind the theory of natural selection: 1) There is variation in the wild (analogous to domestic variation); 2) Because of scarcity, all organisms are engaged in a constant "struggle for existence"; 3) Those individuals with favorable variations - or adaptations - will be preserved while those with injurious variations will become extinct; 4) Natural selection links creatures through the gradual, cumulative process of descent, thereby invalidating independent creation. The rest of the book deals with potential objections to the theory, indicating the extent to which Darwin was on the defensive and needed to robustly undermine his opponents' arguments in order to gain credibility. Darwin's painstaking account is both cautious and forceful, presenting the first cohesive case for evolution by means of natural selection. On the Origin of Species demonstrates in an accessible manner the power of scientific inquiry and unfettered thought over orthodoxy and dogma.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A must for anyone who wishes to be knowledgeable about the world we live in.

    There is a lot of confusion still lingering, like some ineffable cloud of ignorance, around the topic of evolution and the real support and arguments made on its behalf. This book does very well to wave much of that cloud away. I had a feeling when beginning this book that it would somehow be so technical as to be overly difficult, or written in such a way as to be inaccessible. This is, I am happy to say, not the case. This book is straight forward, easy to read, well laid out, and dare I say, quite enjoyable.

    A better authority on the subject you cannot find, and to hear the arguments straight from the finch's beak (as it were), is certainly recommended. It becomes clear how such ideas originated, and after hearing the arguments the theory becomes even easier to understand and defend. I would like to point out at this point that this book contains, nor does it claim to contain, any explanation with regard to the origin of life, it merely goes about proving quite definitively how we have come to have as many species as we do currently in the world.

    I believe that this book is an essential edition to the reading pile, and library of every person who claims to have knowledge of the way things work in the world, or who wishes to. This book does not contain all the knowledge one needs to go on claiming to be intelligent, but it is a great start.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2013

    Tap here if you are an athiest or believe in evolution.

    You are wrong. Charles Darwin never had any kind of a degree in science. All he had was a philosophy degree. And if we are descended from monkeys,how come they are still here? Darwins theory is a pure, undefiled, lie. My rating is a lie. I just wnt you to read this for your own good.This is one of he most Satanic books ever written, because it goes directly against the Bible. And athiests, fyi there is a God, he is more real than anything you know, and he will come soon to judge the earth. Im waening you to repent before it is too late, and God sends you to hell. Please! I beg you to consider the word of God before he judges you.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2013

    Ha!

    Im an atheist. This is so much better in my opinion. But I understand religion. There is such thing ti believe in science AND religion. So people, shut the f.ck up and go away if you were just going to ay somethung useless on this review in the first place..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2013

    Christians BEWARE!

    Do not read this book at all! In Church, we disccussed Creation and evelotion (which I am not even going to capalize because it disscusts me). They started to talk about this book so I thought that I would llook it up on my NOOK. When it came up, I decided to rate it. 1 Star! Wish I could give it a zero. Dont read it! Read the Bible and believe in God.

    0 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2013

    Yuck LIAR!!

    All i can say to this is what another person said in there review: LIAR! LIAR! PANTS ON FIRE!! CREATION IS SO MUCH BETTER!

    0 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2013

    Liar

    This book is a total lie. See Genesis 1:1 for more info. Have a nice day.

    0 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 14, 2011

    A brilliant mind and an outstanding writer

    Darwin leads you to inescapable conclusions by powers of deduction. He was led to his understanding of nature through careful observation and logic, in contrast to our own age dominated by anti-intellectuals. He understood patterns of inheritance without knowing the physical mechanism. I had the urge to reach across the ages to explain DNA. I was not prepared for the high quality of the writing. If you want to understand a subject, go right to the original thinkers, Darwin for biology, Einstein for physics.

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  • Posted May 18, 2011

    The book that changed biology, and the world.

    On the origin of the species is perhaps one of the most important books ever written, as well as being an excellent read. It is beautifully written, and easy to understand. Darwin presents his findings with eloquence, thoughtfulness and clairty. The discoveries that Darwin made pushed forward science and understanding of the natural world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2005

    Interesting and engrossing.........for the most part anyway

    Great Book, sometimes it was hard to read but its great for all those who want to understand Darwin's concepts in depth.

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