A manuscript with a rare autograph by famed naturalist Charles Darwin could sell for more than $1 million after bidding began at an auction in New York on Friday.
The document was written in response to Hermann Kindt, the editor of the autographic mirror—a type of celebrity magazine of its day—which had requested a sample of Darwin’s handwriting to reprint in their publication.
It is listed with an estimated price of $600,000 to $800,000, but the bbc reported that the item is likely to fetch more than 1 million pounds ($1.2 million) by the time it closes for bids on December 9. Even achieving the lowest estimate would set a world record price for a Darwin manuscript.
Bidding on the document opened online on Friday and the item was sold as part of a larger auction that also includes a first edition of the British scientist’s groundbreaking book. On the origin of specieswhich is expected to sell for up to $400,000.
Describing the signed manuscript as “extremely rare,” auction house Sotheby’s, which is selling the item in New York, said the document contained a passage from Darwin’s groundbreaking text and was “the most significant Darwin autograph manuscript to date.” It has never appeared at auction.”
Darwin was known to obsessively review his publications, often discarding pages from working drafts, making any autographed manuscript a rarity. He also often signed documents with abbreviated versions of his name as Ch, Ch. Darwin, or C. Darwin, so his full signature on the manuscript also adds to his value.
The correspondence dates from the autumn of 1865, four years after the publication of the third edition of Origin of species—which, according to Sotheby’s, makes the document all the more significant, as it “encapsulates Darwin’s entire thought on the subject [of evolution]” and includes “statements that only appeared in the third revised edition” of the text.
“I have now recapitulated the principal facts and considerations which have fully convinced me that the species have been modified, during a long course of descent, by the preservation or natural selection of many successive slight favorable variations,” Darwin wrote in the manuscript for autographic mirror.
I cannot believe that a false theory explains, as the theory of natural selection seems to me to explain, the several great classes of facts specified above. It is not a valid objection that science has not yet shed light on the much higher problem of the essence or origin of life.”
And he added: “Who can explain what is the essence of the attraction of gravity? Now no one is opposed to following the results consistent with this unknown element of attraction.”
Darwin’s works on the theory of evolution, while widely accepted and revered in the scientific community and beyond, have been a point of discussion since their publication and are still rejected by some to this day for its direct contradiction with creationism.
“The revolutionary text of Charles Darwin On the origin of species managed to create a book of genesis for the modern age and it would be difficult to overstate the seismic impact it had not only on 19th century science and culture, but also on thinkers and generations to come,” said Richard Austin, Sotheby’s global head of Books and Manuscripts, in a statement. release. “We are proud to offer Darwin’s most important autograph manuscript up for auction.”
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