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The Annotated Origin: A Facsimile of the First Edition of On the Origin of Species, A Facsimile of the First Edition [Facsimile] [Hardcover]

Charles Darwin , James T. Costa
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 30 2009

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is the most important and yet least read scientific work in the history of science. Now James T. Costa—experienced field biologist, theorist on the evolution of insect sociality, and passionate advocate for teaching Darwin with Darwin in a society where a significant proportion of adults believe that life on earth has been created in its present form within the last 10,000 years—has given a new voice to this epochal work. By leading readers line by line through the Origin, Costa brings evolution’s foundational text to life for a new generation.

The Annotated Origin is the edition of Darwin’s masterwork used in Costa’s course at Western Carolina University and in Harvard’s Darwin Summer Course at Oxford. A facsimile of the first edition of 1859 is accompanied by Costa’s extensive marginal annotations, drawing on his extensive experience with Darwin’s ideas in the field, lab, and classroom. This edition makes available an accessible, useful, and practical resource for anyone reading the Origin for the first time or for those who want to reread it with the insights and perspective that a working biologist can provide.

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It's hard to talk about The Origin of Species without making statements that seem overwrought and fulsome. But it's true: this is indeed one of the most important and influential books ever written, and it is one of the very few groundbreaking works of science that is truly readable.

To a certain extent it suffers from the Hamlet problem--it's full of clichés! Or what are now clichés, but which Darwin was the first to pen. Natural selection, variation, the struggle for existence, survival of the fittest: it's all in here.

Darwin's friend and "bulldog" T.H. Huxley said upon reading the Origin, "How extremely stupid of me not to have thought of that." Alfred Russel Wallace had thought of the same theory of evolution Darwin did, but it was Darwin who gathered the mass of supporting evidence--on domestic animals and plants, on variability, on sexual selection, on dispersal--that swept most scientists before it. It's hardly necessary to mention that the book is still controversial: Darwin's remark in his conclusion that "Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history" is surely the pinnacle of British understatement. --Mary Ellen Curtin --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.


On the Origin of Species has too long been one of those worthy books whose fate is to be lauded but unread. Jim Costa's deft commentary--an authoritative and engaging mix of history and science--will change that. The Origin is forbidding and inaccessible no longer--it has evolved! The Annotated Origin of Species restores, for modern readers, the freshness and excitement that made it a bestseller when it first appeared. Charles Darwin, I'm sure, couldn't wish for a better 200th birthday present.
--Andrew Berry, editor of Infinite Tropics, An Alfred Russel Wallace Anthology

Despite being 150 years old, the Origin is a living text for biologists. It is full of unsurpassed natural history observations, a model of careful scientific argument that still can catch the imagination with the grandeur of the views it puts forward. Jim Costa has provided an exceptionally lucid explanation.
--Janet Browne, author of Charles Darwin: The Power of Place

--Bernd Heinrich, author of The Snoring Bird: My Family's Journey Through a Century of Biology

The Annotated Origin is a culminating and, in an original manner of its own, the most useful of the centennial Darwin publications. It gives you the choice of reading page by page the original Origin, or its modern interpretation, or both together.
--Edward O. Wilson

Costa does a wonderful job of annotating Darwin's groundbreaking classic On the Origin of Species. In more than 900 notes, he explains, expands, contextualizes and updates much of what Darwin had to say about evolution and its causes...Costa's thoughtful and informative notes enable readers to gain a much fuller appreciation for Darwin's genius and breadth of knowledge--a fine tribute in the great scientist's bicentennial year. (Publishers Weekly 2009-03-09)

Clearly worth attention...Costa makes use of his experience as a field naturalist and his knowledge of the modern literature of evolutionary biology to illumine many passages in Darwin's work.
--Richard C. Lewontin (New York Review of Books 2009-05-28)

Everyone knows about [On the Origin of Species], but I venture to guess that few non-scholars have actually read it. Now, along comes James T. Costa with this facsimile. The index to the new edition, and especially Costa's wonderful annotations, make this classic text not only approachable, but positively inviting...Biologists will probably enjoy this book, but it is a particular gift to laypeople, especially to biology teachers. They can take excerpts from the book into their classes and show their students how Charles Darwin arrived at his insightful and revolutionizing idea.
--Dudley Barlow (Education Digest 2009-11-01)

The Annotated Origin should be on the shelf of every practitioner of the life sciences. James T. Costa has rendered a valuable service to the profession by making the single most influential work in the history of biology both accessible and relevant to modern readers. Costa is aware that most students of biological science have at best merely glanced at Darwin's great book, but certainly have never read it through. By making visible what he calls the breathtaking sweep of Darwin's method, he has made a compelling argument for taking a page from Darwin's playbook in making the case for biological evolution...Darwin has sometimes been portrayed as a plodding scientist, a good observer whose second-rate status is masked by the pregnancy of the grand idea he stumbled upon. Costa's work is a wonderful refutation of this portrait. No one who follows Costa through The Annotated Origin can possibly doubt Darwin's exceptional stature. There is no better tribute he could have made for this celebration of Darwin's 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his masterpiece.
--Frederick Gregory (BioScience 2009-11-01)

It's entirely possible--I think it's likely--that when the overwhelming and heartwarming cascade of attention to the 2009 anniversary of Darwin's 1809 birth and 1859 publication of On the Origin of Species has at last subsided, the palm for Best in Show will go to James Costa's beautifully-produced and scrupulously, joyously annotated version of the Origin. The idea is so simple that it flies considerably below the fray of mammoth biographies and shrill pie-fights with the so-called "New Atheists": take the text of one of the most seminal and subversive books ever written, and add a thoroughly informed and entertaining running commentary. This is exactly what Costa does, and it bears all the marks of being a labor of love...This is the finest book of its kind ever produced. It should tide you over quite well until 2059.
--Steve Donoghue (openlettersmothly.com 2009-10-29)

I should like to recommend the best, and most informative book to emerge from the [Darwin Year] extravaganza. It merits reading with complete attention, for it is also a fairly honest book, presenting Darwin in his historical context, and in the evolution of his own thinking, while drawing lines of connection, wherever they can be found, between the original insights and the best lab and field work of "neo-Darwinism" today. The book is by James T. Costa, entitled The Annotated Origin. The first edition of Origin of Species is reprinted on wide pages with annotations down the outside columns. There are supplementary aids, including an excellent biographical directory of Darwin's predecessors and contemporaries. No one seriously interested in Darwinian phenomena should dare not to buy this book.
--David Warren (Ottawa Citizen 2009-09-27)

Ably edited by James Costa, The Annotated Origin contains many of the annotations that the original Origin of Species lacked, and provides the reader with a comprehensive grounding in the natural history that Darwin marshaled in support of his revolutionary theory.
--Allen MacNeill (evolutionlist.blogspot.com 2009-11-11)

Costa has placed a facsimile of the first edition of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species side-by-side with a thorough page-by-page commentary. He applies his considerable experience as a field biologist in addressing critical passages in Darwin's work. Previous efforts to annotate important books concentrated mainly on works of literature, but this effort examines one of the most important books in the history of science...Costa's annotations provide enormously helpful information about all of Darwin's editions of the Origin, and students from all levels of the natural sciences and the history of science will welcome this work.
--J. S. Schwartz (Choice 2010-01-01)

One of the beauties of this finely-crafted tour of Darwin's Origin is that you can wander through it at will and still find a firmly-connected story of biology...When you read the original Darwin, the beauty of his prose makes you almost ignore his logic. Costa crisply navigates the currents of Darwin here, as he does steadily throughout his book...Costa teaches clearly, interestingly and relentlessly to the end...[An] illuminating book. I suggest making this book a required reference source in evolution classes.
--Joseph L. Fail Jr. (Evolution: Education and Outreach 2010-09-01)

We have long had the simple facsimile of the all-important first edition of the Origin, published by the same press (Harvard) with a short introduction by the eminent evolutionist Ernst Mayr. Now we have a much expanded work, with the most interesting comments and brief essays by a first-class biologist lined up on the pages against the original text.
--Michael Ruse (Quarterly Review of Biology 2010-03-01)

A masterful, refreshing, thoroughly enjoyable and sometimes novel perspective on Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species...With copious notes placed in the large margins of a beautiful facsimile of the first edition, Costa provides an eclectic but extraordinarily useful and insightful series of cross-references, natural history trivia, updates, expansions and comparisons to modern data, historical context, methodology, philosophy and biographical details. This book is no mere coffee-table showpiece...This lovingly created work must be rated as one of the most important resources available for Darwin scholarship and education.
--David H. A. Fitch (Nature Cell Biology 2010-05-01)

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
RE: the Ray Comfort edition of Origin of the Species ISBN-10 0882709194; ISBN-13 978-0882709192

This is an abridged edition which has a 50 page introdution from creationist Ray Comfort and the book is intended to be used as an "evangelical tool" as per the publisher's website. Since an original edition of the OotS runs over 300 pages of fine print, this abridged edition at 280 pages, may have had several key points removed from it and as such would be worthless as an eductational resource or as a guide to understanding the original theory.

If, on the other hand you are after creationist theory, then this may be just the book for you.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By Stephen Pletko TOP 50 REVIEWER

"When on board [Her Majesty's Ship] 'Beagle,' as naturalist, I was struck with certain facts in the distribution of the inhabitants [that is, plants and animals] of South America, and the geologic relations of the present to past inhabitants of that continent. These facts seemed to me to throw some light on the origin of species--that mystery of mysteries, as it has been called by one of our greatest philosophers."

The above are the first two sentences that begin what many describe as a seminal work in scientific literature and a landmark work in evolutionary biology. This book (whose full title is "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life") was written by Charles Darwin (1809 to 1882) and this first edition was published in November 1859. This illustrated edition was edited by David Quammen, an author and recognized writer.

But you'll find more (much more!!) between the covers of this illustrated edition than just the original text of Darwin's great book. In it are written excerpts from the following books:

(1) "The Voyage of the Beagle"
(2) "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin"
(3) "The Autobiography of Charles Darwin"

From these major sources (and other sources) are included, as well, images of some of the places Darwin visited, some of the creatures he saw, and the ship itself. Included is a gallery of reproductions of photographs, oil portraits, oil woodcuts, sketches, cartoons, coloured lithographs from the book "The Zoology of the Voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle," etc. (Thus, when they say this is "The Illustrated Edition," they're not kidding!!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Way more readable than you think ... Dec 30 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
People tend to look at me crazy when I tell them that I've read ORIGIN OF SPECIES. And really, I think we can all see where they are coming from. Nevertheless, being curious, I thought it might be interesting read the book that started all the fuss.
I was surprised to find how readable it really was. Think about this: what we are taught in high school biology is way more than Darwin knew when he wrote this book. Accordingly, the science described in this book is quite easy to understand for anyone who has previously taken a biology class.
Probably the most interesting thing about this book were the few times that Darwin threw in a little philosophical/theological side comment. I'll leave these juicy tidbits for you to find, but look for them as they add a little "kick" to an otherwise fairly "scientific" book. Though a bit lengthy, this accountant enjoyed ORIGIN OF SPECIES.
As a sidenote: I find the funniest thing about those "Jesus fish" eating the "Darwin fish" car decals is that the base idea is that the stronger fish wins- a.k.a. surival of the fittest. The ensuing contradiction of unwittingly using one of Darwin's base tenets to attack Darwinian evolution is priceless.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By mcewin TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've now gone through six of the new editions of Origin of Species that have been released in honor of the 150th anniversary of publication. My recommendations,

1) Harvard "The Annotated Origin", with annotations by James Costa.
This is *the* one to get for the Darwin scholar, and for working biologists. A facsimile of the first edition is printed on facing pages across the center divide, with marginal notes by James Costa keyed on the outside margins. So, you can read the original text without distraction if you wish, and refer to the notes as necessary. The notes are largely historical, and go a long way towards making critical changes in Morse Peckham's variorum edition accessible. As a check, I really enjoyed the annotations to Chapter 4, where CD recaps the argument for and introduces the term Natural Selection. Costa's notes show CD backing away from his forthright statement in the 3rd edition, and the unfortunate introduction of 'survival of the fittest' in the 6th.

I'm compelled to added that this edition reminds me very much of the Harper Collins Study Bible of the New Revised Standard Version, an excellent fully-annotated edition largely free from doctrinal bias. [In YHWH's 2nd edition of the Descent of Man, 'humankind' (adam) is formed from the 'ground' (adamah), and not in the image of YHWH. So there.] However, the notes in HCSB take up the bottom half of the page and the eye must skip up and down, which is a distraction from the left-to-right flow of the text. As so often in the past, Bible scholars could learn a thing or two from Darwin scholars.

2) Harvard facsimile of the first edition.
This is the same facsimile text as above, without the the marginal notations, and in paperback (Harvard publishes both).
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great copy of the first edition
Nice size for making notes - wide margins for annotation.
Much better than trying to read it in PDF format.
Published 2 months ago by Kimberly Perreault
5.0 out of 5 stars illustrations add amazing value
This book is an amazing revelation on the origin of species and natural selection. The original work of Mr Darwin and original illustrations to accompany the text. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Jonathan Steeves
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid at all costs if you want the real deal.
Ray Comfort stuffs a far too long introduction into the book in the hope of passing on his own message of religion. See [... Read more
Published on March 25 2012 by Antony Burt
3.0 out of 5 stars $135 is too much to pay
This is a massively overpriced edition; the only novelty is the appendices which will not be of value to the general reader.

Save your money. Read more
Published on March 28 2010 by mcewin
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid Ray Comfort Version
It is insulting that a creationist like Ray Comfort would write a negative 50 page introduction filled with assertions rather than facts about this important book. Read more
Published on Oct. 20 2009 by Eric Joly
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of the 150th anniversary editions: a comparative review of seven...
I've now gone through six of the new editions of Origin of Species that have been released in honor of the 150th anniversary of publication. Read more
Published on Aug. 15 2009 by mcewin
3.0 out of 5 stars Penguin edition, not the Cambridge edition: Caveat emptor
A number of new editions of the Origin have appeared in this the 150th anniversary of first publications. Read more
Published on July 26 2009 by mcewin
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this Facisimile 1st edition, avoid the 6th edition
The 'Origin' went through six editions in Darwin's lifetime: the 1st and 6th are the only ones still reprinted. Read more
Published on June 30 2009 by mcewin
5.0 out of 5 stars A great edition
This book presents Darwin full text as it appeared in the first edition, which is the best. Indeed, Darwin slightly modified the following editions to make them less shocking for... Read more
Published on Dec 10 2008 by C. Bazinet
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite new book this year
This is the first time I've read Darwin's masterpiece in spite of having a paperback edition for a couple of years. Read more
Published on Nov. 1 2008 by Amazon Customer
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