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The autographed document could fetch a record price

The 1865 document is in perfect condition.

A signed paper by Charles Darwin, defending his theory of evolution, goes on sale Friday at Sotheby’s in New York.

The item is likely to fetch more than £1 million, a world record price for a Darwin manuscript.

He had produced the document so that it could be copied in what, in 1865, was a celebrity magazine.

Darwin was not in the habit of filing away his paperwork, and very little original material survived.

If it does, and it’s signed, it’s almost always just the abbreviation “C Darwin” or “Ch Darwin.”

It is very rare to have his name, “Charles Darwin”, written in full and in his own handwriting.

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

But Professor John van Wyhe, curator the academic collection known as Darwin Onlinehe says it’s very special because of what the great man chose to put on the page along with his signature.

“He includes a passage that appears in the third edition of On the Origin of Species,” explained the senior professor at the National University of Singapore.

“It’s a really favorite passage, because it’s trying to make the point that people might find his theory incredible and outlandish, but they said the same thing about Newton and gravity, and no one doubted the existence of gravity anymore.

“The same, he says, would be true over time with evolution and natural selection,” the professor told BBC News.

The document was produced for The Autographic Mirror.

The autograph mirror

The Autographic Mirror was something of a celebrity magazine for its time.

Its publisher, Hermann Kindt, printed facsimiles of the handwriting or autographs of famous people along with their biographies.

When he asked Darwin if he would contribute, the scientist jumped at the chance. It was an opportunity to strike back at the skeptics of him.

At the time, six years after the release of the first edition of On the Origin of Species, it was a common criticism that it could not explain the origin of life itself.

Darwin conceded that this was the case, but that it was irrelevant to his observations of how life on Earth evolved and diversified. As with gravity, its “essence” may not be understood, but Newton’s equations certainly worked.

He does not mention Newton by name, but Professor John van Wyhe said that when he wrote the passage it was known that he had recently read Newton’s biography. The 17th century genius also had to endure the wrath of the establishment when he launched his law of universal gravitation.

The Darwin sheet for sale with Sotheby’s is in mint condition.

The auction house set the previous world record for a Darwin manuscript at £400,000 and expects it to be easily surpassed.

“What’s different about this sheet is that Darwin was choosing the passage he wanted to associate with himself and his legacy,” said Dr. Kalika Sands, Sotheby’s 19th-century history of science expert.

“He wrote it on a large piece of paper. He did it with incredible clarity, and he signed his name very boldly. In this passage he mentions natural selection, he mentions Newton, and he discusses the space for higher powers, but at the same time he says that nothing explains these theories.

“It really serves as your definitive or authoritative statement about your work.”

Sotheby’s online Offer of the age of wonders it opens on Friday and ends in two weeks, on December 9.

The Darwin passage says:

I have now recapitulated the principal facts and considerations which have completely convinced me that the species have been modified, during a long course of descent, by conservation or natural selection by many successive slight favorable variations. I cannot believe that a false theory explains, as the theory of natural selection seems to me to explain, the various important 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. Who can explain what is the essence of the attraction of gravity? No one is now opposed to following the results accordingly on this unknown element of attraction; despite Leibnitz earlier accusing Newton of introducing “occult qualities and miracles into philosophy”. -Charles Darwin.


Darwin would normally abbreviate Charles to just “C” or “Ch”



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