Own your share of Darwin’s £275,000 First Edition

A one-of-a-kind opportunity to own a share in a 163-year old first edition copy of “On the Origin of Species” from only £50 through fractionalisation.

On the Origin of Species

One of the most coveted books today, a 163-year old copy of “On the Origin of Species” is now part of Showpiece’s £9m collection of history’s rarest treasures – and it can be yours, at a fraction of the price.

Darwin related collectibles are in high demand. Recent and upcoming auctions have seen a journal sold for over £300,000, his microscope for £600,000, and expect a signed manuscript to fetch up to as much as £700,000. First editions of what was recently voted “the most influential book of all time” by academics have also sold for significant amounts; Bonhams auctioned a copy for US$500,075 in 2019. Showpiece is making it possible for one of these rare copies to now be yours.

After spending 20 rigorous years scripting “On the Origin of Species”, Charles Darwin wanted to ensure its publishing process went smoothly. Dissatisfied with prior publishers, Darwin took his manuscript to the only person he trusted enough. Geologist Charles Lyell, a younger Darwin’s mentor, arranged for him to meet with one John Murray, who had helped him publish best-selling works of his own. Together, the author and publisher settled on releasing 1,250 first editions. Upon seeing his newly printed copies, the naturalist remarked “I am infinitely pleased and proud at the appearance of my child”.

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Although these sold out almost immediately, their contents stirred up controversy. Criticism caused Darwin to publish multiple revised editions, each in increased quantities relative to the first. First editions of “On the Origin of Species” gradually became more valuable, being limited in number, and the only kind to carry Darwin’s initial propositions about the origin of all life. Today, few first editions exist in circulation among a handful of private collectors, and renowned educational and scientific institutions, with even fewer being on par with Showpiece’s volume.

Bibliomania – “The gentlest of infirmities”

A passion for collecting extends to rare manuscripts, a category that has been considered valuable for decades. Initially a sign of upper-class opulence, the assembly of private libraries and book collections is today of global interest. Bibliomaniacs source rare books to curate collections representing important history, to rekindle childhood nostalgia, and out of a love for particular subject areas.

An appreciation for printing and binding also drives collectors towards procuring physical volumes. With a departure from more traditional printing techniques, and the recent digitisation of books, certain tangible elements of a book have become more desirable, motivating significant price differences between copies of similar kinds. Rare printing errors increase a book’s value, since these are rectified in reprints. Similarly, hardcovers retain more value, since printing and binding processes used to create these are of superior quality, involving more intricate designs.

According to rare book expert Oliver Bayliss, no one genre or type of book is most desirable. Collecting interests show constant fluctuation, and are often dictated by social trends. However, Bayliss reveals that a first edition of Darwin’s work, heralded as the ‘greatest work of scientific literature’ seemingly transcends these boundaries, and is regarded to possess indisputable value by collectors.

Survival of the finest

Showpiece’s volume of Darwin’s treatise, authenticated by experts, has been deemed exceptional, and in near-perfect condition. Rupert Powell, managing director of Forum Auctions, noted the presence of features missing from others of its kind. This first edition exhibits chocolate-brown endpapers, an intact ‘half title’ page missing in other copies, a folding lithograph of Darwin’s tree of life, an original ‘Edmonds & Remnants’ binder’s ticket, and 32 pages of publisher advertisements, absent in later editions. This beautiful example also boasts original, emerald green wave-grain binding, and gilt spine-lettering. Despite the typically fragile nature of simple, mid to late Victorian era cloth binding, Showpiece’s volume has remained pristine.

Showpiece’s volume also possesses extraordinary provenance, being that it is one of 500 copies that once belonged to Mudie’s Lending Library. Famous for revolutionising the manner in which Victorian literature was published and consumed, the library operated for nearly 100 years, during which several first editions were circulated far and wide, among readers and collectors alike.

Changing the game

With Showpiece, you can own ‘On the Origin of Species’, and join a global community of collectors in collecting some of the world’s most unobtainable items.

• Pieces of Darwin’s first-edition are available from £‎50, with various physical benefits on offer, at Showpiece.com.