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'Origins of Species' sells for half million

Louisa Wright
June 16, 2019

A presentation copy of Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species" has sold for $500,075 — double the amount expected. The book was originally owned by German botanist Robert Caspary, who received the book from Darwin.

Charles Darwin's book 'On the Origin of Species'
Image: picture-alliance/Photoshot

A first edition of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species has sold for more than half a million dollars at auction, setting a world record, Bonhams auction house said.

Bonhams said the 160-year-old copy of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was sold for $500,075 (€445,000) to an anonymous telephone buyer following a four-way bidding battle that ended at midnight on Thursday. The book had been held in a private collection for almost 100 years.

Darwin, a British naturalist and biologist who developed the theory of evolution by observing and studying birds, plants and fossils around the world, published the book in 1859.

His revolutionary scientific theory is considered a turning point in the history of science as it clashed with religious beliefs in creation.

The book was among a number of first edition presentation copies that were sent to family and friends shortly after it was published.

The original owner of the book was German botanist Robert Caspary, who corresponded frequently with Darwin.

It bears the inscription "Professor Caspary / Koenigsberg / from the author."

Caspary's work was discussed in other Darwin publications including his 1868 The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication as well as in his 1877 The Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species.

The book was purchased in the early 20th century by Edward Bradford Titchener, an English-born psychologist and professor at Cornell University, and handed down to the current owner.

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