On The Origin of Species: The story of Darwin's title


The genesis of Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859) is well known, and the changes that it underwent in subsequent editions are well documented. However, less is known or has been published about the genesis of its original title and about the seven modifications that it subsequently underwent. That original title was much longer than the title of the unfinished big ‘Species Book’ that preceded and inspired The Origin : Natural Selection . Why did Darwin use an extended version of this elegant, short title for The Origin ? And what was the rationale behind the later modifications? Contrary to what is often claimed or implied, the criticism of his publisher, John Murray, does not offer the only and certainly not the full answer to the latter question.


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