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The Annotated <i>Origin</i>: A Facsimile of the First Edition of <i>On the Origin of Species</i>, A Facsimile of the First Edition Hardcover – Facsimile, May 30 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; A Facsimile of the First Edition edition (May 30 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674032810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674032811
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 21.1 x 4.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #806,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


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)

About the Author

James T. Costa is Executive Director of the Highlands Biological Station and is Professor of Biology at Western Carolina University.

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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 Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9badec3c) out of 5 stars 1,059 reviews
865 of 887 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9baf7a44) out of 5 stars Darwin, with intro by Huxley - is the REAL BOOK... BEWARE the copy with intro by Comfort Oct. 26 2009
By Caraleisa - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The original book by Charles Darwin is a classic that should be on everyone's reading list. There are ample reviews here which address it, praise it, and I am completely in agreement with them. Darwin's Origin of Species is a true masterpiece.

Unfortunately, this review is to help readers/buyers realize that there is a 'vandalized' version which has been published, and to tell you how to avoid it and get the real thing.

To explain; there is yet another edition also called "The Origin of Species, 150th Anniversary Edition", put out by Christian Fundamentalist Ray Comfort in an attempt to discredit evolutionary theory and Charles Darwin, and it has some extra 50 pages of unintelligible drivel about creationism, as well as having ABRIDGED Darwin's original text. If you want to read about creationism, find another book... if you want the facts, read ALL of what Darwin has to say, and please don't give any money to Comfort by accidentally buying his ABRIDGED version.

Note that he used the EXACT same name as the 'real' anniversary edition -- "The Origin Of Species: 150th Anniversary Edition by Charles Darwin". You can easily tell which version you're getting by who wrote the introduction - go with Julian Huxley, NOT Ray Comfort, and you'll have the correct and complete version.

Also, note that Amazon reviews are mixed between the books (normally not a problem at all) - I hope they are straightening this out, but currently that's not the case. Sadly, the negative reviews of the Comfort version are bringing down the rating of the 'good/real' book.

Sorry to have to write about the 'drama', but I'm sure you want to know that you have ordered the correct book, and I know you'll love it.

94 of 95 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9baf7a98) out of 5 stars This is the sixth edition of the Origin of Species Aug. 13 2010
By John Salerno - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
My four-star rating is more for this particular product than for the work of Darwin itself. Clearly Darwin's book is the cornerstone of modern biology, and I won't even pretend to try to rate its importance using one to five stars.

However, I felt it was important to let people know that this is the *sixth* edition of the book. I ordered it thinking it was the first, although I admit I had no reason to believe that other than that it did not specify that it was any other edition. The main problem with later editions is that Darwin continually responded to his critics in subsequent editions, thus changing some aspects of his theory. He also added the obnoxious concession "by the Creator" to his beautiful final sentence in order to appease the religious critics. The sixth (final) edition even has an extra chapter in response to criticisms by Catholic biologist George Mivart (which chapter is present in this edition, thus proving it is the sixth edition).

The benefit to later editions would be that they contain minor corrections to the writing, as well as these answers to objections and criticism, but at the same time I don't feel that Darwin's answers needed to be added to the book itself. "The Origin" should simply present his theory (as the first edition does) and he could easily have answered his critics in other ways and not by editing the actual theory itself.

But to reiterate my main point, I am not reviewing the actual work of Darwin. I am posting this review to inform people of which edition they are getting with this particular book, because I wish I had known in advance.

Edit: I should add that the copy I received did not have the same cover as what is displayed here. My copy shows a bird, a wildcat, and a dolphin on the cover. The cover shown on the product page at the time of writing is of a ship. However, my copy is still the 150th Anniversary Edition (Signet Classics) with an introduction by Julian Huxley.
326 of 346 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9baf7d74) out of 5 stars A Sham - Half the number of pages as the legitimate version, critical content omitted Jan. 8 2012
By Mitch Scott - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have to admit, I'm astonished by the ease with which one can be fooled into thinking they've procured the full and legitimate content of Darwin's signature work. A couple of easy clues, though:

Darwin refers in this version to a diagram in chapter IV, to illustrate "The Probable Effects of the Process of Natural Selection Through Divergence of Character and Extinction, On the Descendants of a Common Ancestor." This diagram is absent in this version, and this absence is what started me on the road to identifying this version as a fraud. I began to search for other editions of "Origins" to see if they included the diagram. And that search found not only that most versions did contain the diagram, but that the full text of this work ran to over 550 pages - twice as many as are included in this version.

I should also have known better than to have procured a free version. You truly do get what you pay for.

Be aware, as you look for a reliable version of the work, that there are many fraudulent versions out there. I won't go into detail on this, as this review concerns this specific version. But I can say that I've purchased a version that I am satisfied is a faithful rendering of the complete content. The ISBN number is 978-0-451-52906-0. It's the 150th anniversary edition, with an introduction by Julian Huxley. Still, don't take my word for it, and do your own due diligence. There is another "150th anniversary" version with an introduction by Ray Comfort, who is a Christian prothselitizer. So be careful.

Hopefully this will prevent you from having to start reading the work again from the beginning, as I've had to do. But I'm glad to have figured it out and separated fact from fiction.
176 of 186 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9baf7c6c) out of 5 stars Gorgeous edition of the classic text, crammed with goodies Feb. 17 2009
By JMB1014 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Note: For some reason, the Kindle edition is different from the version I reviewed. The version I reviewed is a hardback and it is not introduced by a creationist. Please be very careful in considering editions of this book, as there are many.

This edition of "On the Origin of Species" is invaluable to anyone who has been suffering without Darwin's most important work, or getting by with only a stripped-down version. The text is the first edition of the six editions Darwin oversaw in his lifetime. It's the version scientists now regard as the most powerful and passionate statement of Darwin's views. But besides the full (unabridged) "Origin," this large-format book is replete with other materials. The word "sumptuous" comes to mind. There are hundreds of amazing illustrations, maps and diagrams, many in full color. Also included are scores of substantial excerpts from other works by Darwin and correspondence between him and his contemporaries. This makes the book a treasure to have, because it is so incredibly rich in contextual materials.

For instance, pictures of T.H. Huxley are included along with Huxley's letter to Darwin, where Huxley asserted his (not altogether unconditional) support for Darwin's argument and added that he was sharpening his claws and beak in readiness - that is, to help defend Darwin from his opponents. I was also delighted with the many beautiful photographs taken in the Galapagos Islands and of life forms found there, to say nothing of the pictures of Darwin, his family, colleagues and adversaries that are interspersed throughout the book, and Darwin's own drawings, the pictures of Darwin's home near Downe, his desk, models and a detailed diagram of the H.M.S. Beagle, and so on. There is also a chronology of Darwin's life to 1864. Reading this, you are getting far more than one book: the many excerpts from Darwin's earlier and later writings, and all the illustrations and other materials, provide considerable historical context for the "Origin," its development and reception, making this almost certainly the definitive edition.

If you have never read Darwin's masterpiece, this book is a first-class reason to do so. His prose is elegant - even, at times, eloquent. The argument unfolds logically and clearly. Darwin was an utterly unpretentious English gentleman, after all, who lived during the Victorian era; he was, and remains, a highly agreeable companion. (If you enjoy travel literature, Darwin's earlier "Voyage of the Beagle" is also highly readable and fascinating. It sold well in his lifetime and reads almost like an adventure story. Many excerpts from "Voyage" appear in the book under review. They may tempt you to read the other book - "Voyage of the Beagle," that is.) "On the Origin of Species" was written to be read by anyone - it is not merely for scientists or experts. Small wonder that the first edition sold out the same day it was released.

One of the most striking things about the "Origin" is how careful, even cautious, Darwin is in drawing inferences from the piles of data he had before him. (In fact, he devoted an entire chapter to describing potential objections to his own arguments. That takes candor to a very high level. Yet creationists often just read that chapter in order to find objections to evolution, as if Darwin had not already thought the matter through, and as if modern science had not already resolved those objections, since Darwin so thoughtfully and disarmingly enumerated them.) Darwin's argument thus has more force than it would if he made claims that the data did not so clearly support. Darwin's great virtue as a scientist is that he did not let his own beliefs prejudice his investigations: he let the evidence speak plainly for itself. He was humble, painstaking and forthright.

Since I originally prepared this review, another superb edition of "On the Origin of Species" has been published by Harvard's Belknap Press, which provides excellent and substantial annotations to a facsimile of the original 1859 text, on the same pages as the text itself. That is a handsome volume which is immensely helpful because the annotations (prepared by James T. Costa, a biologist himself) explain so much. Darwin's writing is precise and clear but lay readers often have questions - or would, if we knew what to ask - that are answered in the annotations. Professor Costa updates much of what is being said in the text with current scientific knowledge, explains why Darwin is saying what he is saying, and generally offers valuable insights. The result is to make Darwin's book even more accessible to the general reader. Regrettably, that volume does not have all the rich contextual materials, illustrations and selections from other works that distinguish the edition under review here. Still, if your objective is to read Darwin's seminal work and comprehend it, Costa's is doubtless as good a book as there is. Thus, while it would be ideal if both of these books could be combined, we should be vastly grateful that two such outstanding editions of this important work became available at reasonable cost during the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of "On the Origin of Species." You can take your pick, or if you really love Darwin and science, get both (as I did).

While I recommend reading "On the Origin of Species" in any edition, this is a lavish and eminently worthwhile volume, which I have added to the several editions I already own.
124 of 136 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9baf82c4) out of 5 stars An amazingly accessible read... June 24 2009
By June J. Pilcher - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Almost everyone has heard of this book. But, how many people have actually read it? If you haven't yet, it is well-worth reading.

Darwin spent over 20 years researching his ideas, preparing his arguments, and writing this book. He did a great job! "On the Origin" is surprisingly easy to understand. Just look at the beginning. Instead of trying to leap directly into his basic idea and premise, Darwin chooses to gradually lead the reader up to the basic idea of evolution by first point out how humans have caused evolution to occur in our domesticated animals (something very easy for all humans to see even in the 1850s). Darwin then goes on to point out some of the evidence that he and others had seen at that time that indicated that evolution had occurred. His leap in understanding the basic premise of evolution is amazing especially when you consider that he did not understand or have access to information about the basics of genetic passing of traits within species.