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From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin’s Four Great Books

From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin’s Four Great Books


  • Charles Darwin
  • Edward O. Wilson (Editor)


  • Hardcover: 1706 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton; Slipcase edition (November 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 0393061345
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.9 x 2.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.84 pounds


Book Description 

A gorgeous gift and a landmark work that is an essential addition to everyone’s personal library.

Never before have the four great works of Charles Darwin—Voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle (1845), The Origin of Species (1859), The Descent of Man (1871), and The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (1872)—been collected under one cover. Undertaking this challenging endeavor 123 years after Darwin’s death, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Edward O. Wilson has written an introductory essay for the occasion, while providing new, insightful introductions to each of the four volumes and an afterword that examines the fate of evolutionary theory in an era of religious resistance. In addition, Wilson has crafted a creative new index to accompany these four texts, which links the nineteenth-century, Darwinian evolutionary concepts to contemporary biological thought. Beautifully slipcased, and including restored versions of the original illustrations, From So Simple a Beginning turns our attention to the astounding power of the natural creative process and the magnificence of its products. Slipcased hardcover; 101 illustrations, map. 

About the Author(s)

A Harvard professor for four decades, Edward O. Wilson has written twenty books and received numerous awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes and the 1976 National Medal of Science. He lives in Lexington, Massachusetts, with his wife, Irene. 


The most important idea ever presented…, December 20, 2005

I think it was Gould who lamented the fact that so few people have actually read Darwin. I’ll admit that he’s not always easy reading but it’s almost always rewarding and this small collection puts his four primary works right on your desk.

Darwin’s writings are far from the last word on evolution and natural selection and enormous strides have been made since he first presented his ideas. That doesn’t diminish the importance of these works though. Feynman always went back to the original authors in his study of physics and found that it gave him a tremendous edge in understanding new ideas: once you have a firm foundation and basis of understanding it’s easier to see how new ideas fit in or change the central dogma. In the same way these volumes are necessary for an understanding of the historical questions concerning evolution and for the still current debates.

I found the introduction and notes by Wilson to be a real help that added to the text. Darwin’s ideas are seminal and still so controversial to out culture at large that we still fight over them. Reading through this collection can help gain a deeper perspective into Darwin, his ideas, and the entire study of evolution.