It is now fully recognized that the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859 brought about a revolution in man's attitude toward life and his own place in the universe. On the Origin of Species is rightly regarded as one of the most important books ever published, and a knowledge of it should be part of the intellectual equipment of every educated person. On the Origin of Species remains surprisingly modern in its assertions and is also remarkably accessible to the layman, much more so than recent treatises necessarily encumbered with technical language and professional jargon.
This first edition had a freshness and uncompromising directness that were considerably weakened in later editions, and yet nearly all available reprints of the work are based on the greatly modified sixth edition of 1872. In the only other modern reprinting of the first edition, the pagination was changed, so that it is impossible to give page references to significant passages in the original. Clearly this facsimile reprint of the momentous first edition fills a need for scholars and general readers alike.
Introduction by Ernst Mayr
On the Origin of Species
Diagram of Divergence
"The Origin is one of the most important books ever published, and a knowledge of it should be a part of the intellectual equipment of every educated person [...] The book will endure in future ages so long as a knowledge of science persists in mankind. It remains to be said that the edition here reviewed is very worthily produced and contains a little-known picture of Darwin."
– W. L. Sumner, Nature
"This is a most valuable publication. In addition to the text of the first edition (1859) of the Origin with all the freshness and directness of the original, now here made available in facsimile, Professor Ernst Mayr of Harvard, a most distinguished writer in this field, has prefaced this reprint with an introduction that is in itself a classic."
– Times Literary Supplement
"It was a very happy idea to publish a facsimile of the first edition of On the Origin of Species; the price of copies of the original edition has reached the thousand dollar bracket, and in contemporary literature all page-references are to the original pagination, which was not followed in previous reprints of the first edition. Now, with this very reasonably priced and beautifully produced book, not only historians of science but also biologists will have the opportunity of following the fascinating thought-trails, still far from fully explored, of that remarkable man Darwin. Few if any persons are so well qualified as Harvard's Ernst Mayr to execute so helpfully and gracefully the delicate task of writing a worthy foreword to such a classic."
– Sir Gavin de Beer, Science