The Principles of Geology: Being an Attempt to Explain the Former Changes of the Earth's Surface, by Reference to Causes now in Operation. Sir Charles LYELL.
The Principles of Geology: Being an Attempt to Explain the Former Changes of the Earth's Surface, by Reference to Causes now in Operation.

The Principles of Geology…
The Principles of Geology: Being an Attempt to Explain the Former Changes of the Earth's Surface, by Reference to Causes now in Operation.

London: John Murray, 1830-1833.

Three volumes, octavo, with 11 maps and plates, four of which are hand-coloured; with a single page of publisher's advertisements at the end of vol. 3 (some examples have 4 pp); complete with the required half-titles in volumes one and three; a fine set in contemporary half blue calf, spines panelled in gilt and blind between raised bands, double crimson labels.

"My books came half out of Lyell's brain" (Charles Darwin)

First edition of this classic by 'the father of modern geology', which "has been called the most important scientific book ever... and [which] shook prevailing views of how the earth had been formed" (Cambridge). "One of the key works in the nineteenth century encounters between science and Scripture, Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology sought to explain the geological state of the modern Earth by considering the long-term effects of observable natural phenomena. Written with clarity and a dazzling intellectual passion, it is both a seminal work of modern geology and a compelling precursor to Darwinism, speculating on radical changes in climate and geography across the ages, and exploring the evidence for the progressive development of life" (Secord).

First edition of this classic by 'the father of modern geology', which "has been called the most important scientific book ever... and [which] shook prevailing views of how the earth had been formed" (Cambridge). "One of the key works in the nineteenth century encounters between science and Scripture, Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology sought to explain the geological state of the modern Earth by considering the long-term effects of observable natural phenomena. Written with clarity and a dazzling intellectual passion, it is both a seminal work of modern geology and a compelling precursor to Darwinism, speculating on radical changes in climate and geography across the ages, and exploring the evidence for the progressive development of life" (Secord).

Just 1500 copies were published of the first edition, of which only two volumes were contemplated. They had reached a second edition in 1833 when the third was added. Eleven editions of the work appeared during Lyell's lifetime; at his death he had just finished his revisions for the first volume of the 12th edition.

The book was to have a fundamental effect on the development of Darwin's thinking. "When the Beagle expedition sailed in 1831 Henslow presented Darwin with the first volume of Lyell's Principles of Geology … The second volume of Lyell's book reached Darwin in Montevideo and his constant references to the enormous influence on his thinking of this great work are typified by a letter from him to Leonard Horner saying 'I always feel as if my books came half out of Lyell's brain'" (PMM).

Darwin openly acknowledged that Lyell's identification of changes operating over huge periods of time to create geological features was part of the key to his development of the theory of natural selection. He remarked that 'The great merit of the Principles was that it altered the whole of one's mind, & therefore that, when seeing a thing never seen by Lyell, one yet partially saw it through his eyes'.

'Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology shaped Darwin's vision of nature as he circumnavigated the globe on the Beagle and as he later created his theory of evolution … Darwin became his most enthusiastic advocate, and found the Principles immensely liberating from the moment of landing on his first tropical island during the Beagle voyage. The young naturalist used the book to develop his own causally-oriented style of interpretation, comparing the uplifted but scarcely disrupted rocks in the mid-Atlantic Cape Verde Islands with the Temple of Serapis. Later in the voyage he reinterpreted the origin of coral reefs, overturning the model that Lyell had advocated; but the style of reasoning was that of the master, who altered his next edition accordingly. When Darwin began to consider the possibility of species evolution after his return home, he did so in private dialogues with the Principles…" (Secord, pp. ix & xxxvi).

Dibner, Heralds, 96; Grolier/Horblit, 70; Norman, 1398; Printing and the Mind of Man, 344.

Condition Report: Slight rubbing at top of spine of first volume, otherwise in fine and fresh condition in a very attractive contemporary binding.

Price (AUD): $17,500.00

US$12,038.71   Other currencies

Ref: #5000736

Condition Report