Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation

Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation

by James A. Secord
     
 


Fiction or philosophy, profound knowledge or shocking heresy? When Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation was published anonymously in 1844, it sparked one of the greatest sensations of the Victorian era. More than a hundred thousand readers were spellbound by its startling vision—an account of the world that extended from the formation of theSee more details below

Overview


Fiction or philosophy, profound knowledge or shocking heresy? When Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation was published anonymously in 1844, it sparked one of the greatest sensations of the Victorian era. More than a hundred thousand readers were spellbound by its startling vision—an account of the world that extended from the formation of the solar system to the spiritual destiny of humanity. As gripping as a popular novel, Vestiges combined all the current scientific theories in fields ranging from astronomy and geology to psychology and economics. The book was banned, it was damned, it was hailed as the gospel for a new age. This is where our own public controversies about evolution began.

In a pioneering cultural history, James A. Secord uses the story of Vestiges to create a panoramic portrait of life in the early industrial era from the perspective of its readers. We join apprentices in a factory town as they debate the consequences of an evolutionary ancestry. We listen as Prince Albert reads aloud to Queen Victoria from a book that preachers denounced as blasphemy vomited from the mouth of Satan. And we watch as Charles Darwin turns its pages in the flea-ridden British Museum library, fearful for the fate of his own unpublished theory of evolution. Using secret letters, Secord reveals how Vestiges was written and how the anonymity of its author was maintained for forty years. He also takes us behind the scenes to a bustling world of publishers, printers, and booksellers to show how the furor over the book reflected the emerging industrial economy of print.

Beautifully written and based on painstaking research, Victorian Sensation offers a new approach to literary history, the history of reading, and the history of science. Profusely illustrated and full of fascinating stories, it is the most comprehensive account of the making and reception of a book (other than the Bible) ever attempted.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226744117
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
10/28/2003
Edition description:
1
Pages:
624
Sales rank:
933,698
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.60(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations
Prologue: Devils or Angels
Part One: Romances of Creation
1. A Great Sensation
2. Steam Reading
3. Evolution for the People
4. Marketing Speculation
Part Two: Geographies of Reading
5. Conversations on Creation
6. Science in the City
7. Church in Danger
8. The Holy War
Part Three: Spiritual Journeys
9. Sinners and Saints
10. Self-Development
11. Anonymity
Part Four: Futures of Science
12. The Paradoxes of Gentility
13. Grub Street Science
14. Mammon and the New Reformation
Epilogue: Lifting the Veil
References
Illustration Credits
Index

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >