Three Charles Darwin First Editions, ca. 1830

Value (2011) | $143,000 Auction$284,000 Insurance
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GUEST:
I brought in some books written by Charles Darwin. The Origin of Species was a wedding gift from my wife in 1978. Her father was a book collector. He collected in the '40s and '50s. And unfortunately, he was deceased when we got married, but my mother-in-law agreed to sell the book to my wife for $200, and because I was a biologist, she gave it to me as a wedding gift.

APPRAISER:
Well, that's a very appropriate gift for a biologist.

GUEST:
Yes. And the other two I basically inherited when my mother-in-law died.

APPRAISER:
All right. Well, you've brought... first, let's talk about The Voyage of the Beagle, that's the earliest of the three books that you brought. That's, uh, one volume only of the set, which would have had four volumes, and you have them, you said.

GUEST:
Yes, we have them, I just didn't want to lug all of them around.

APPRAISER:
The Voyage of the Beagle is from the 1830s. It was published over a series of years in the four volumes. It's in beautiful condition, the cloth is really a lot less worn than we typically will encounter. This other book is later; this is The Descent of Man. Again, it's one volume... Of two, correct. And you have the two.

GUEST:
Yes, we have both.

APPRAISER:
Perfect. The Descent of Man was published, together, the two volumes in 1871. The Origin you brought in struck me, first of all, just its overall… the condition of it. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, published London, 1859. It was only printed when it came out in 1,250 copies.

GUEST:
Oh, that's news, wow.

APPRAISER:
Yeah, that's a small run. It wasn't nearly the blockbuster it became right off the bat. And it was a book that... it's considered, you know, the most important scientific book of the 19th century.

GUEST:
Oh, I would agree.

APPRAISER:
It really has become a landmark in science. But also, it was the work in which he put all his ideas and thoughts about evolution into his theory. So it was really a major, major work. His early work on the Beagle, he traveled on the Beagle as a naturalist. He didn't like going on the sea, he got seasick, but when he got to the land in South America, while they were surveying the coastlines, he was on the land collecting samples and studying geology. But during that time there was a very important period for him when he was starting to really develop his theories of natural selection, where he saw the variation of the types of animals... Darwin's finches and all that.

GUEST:
Exactly.

APPRAISER:
What I looked to here, when you showed me the book, was here in the back. These are the ads for the publisher's other works, and they're dated June 1859. That's a good sign.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
That implied to me that this is definitely a first edition.

GUEST:
Oh, great.

APPRAISER:
So you've got a beautiful first edition of a really significant work of the 19th century. For insurance, I would put on The Beagle, in that condition, you're going to want to put about $80,000 insurance figure on The Beagle.

GUEST:
$80,000?

APPRAISER:
Yeah, $80,000 on The Beagle...

GUEST:
The set?

APPRAISER:
The set, the set.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
Auction estimate we'd put $40,000 to $60,000. The Descent of Man doesn't bring as much-- it came out after The Origin, so it doesn't have the same impact-- but it is an important book. It's going up. But I would put on that one a $4,000 insurance value.

GUEST:
Oh, big difference.

APPRAISER:
Auction estimate would be about $2,000 to $3,000 for the complete two-volume set.

GUEST:
For both of them, right.

APPRASER: The Origin, I have to say, if that were to come along at auction, I would put an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.

GUEST:
You're kidding.

APPRAISER:
Nope.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
And if you were going to insure it, I would insure it at $200,000. That was $200 well invested.

GUEST (laughs): That was a nice return on the $200.

APPRAISER:
Thank you so much for bringing it in. It was a real eye-opener.

GUEST:
Yeah, for me.

APPRAISER:
Congratulations.

GUEST:
Wow, that's fantastic. Thank you so much.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Christie's
New York, NY
Appraised value (2011)
$143,000 Auction$284,000 Insurance
Event
Pittsburgh, PA (August 13, 2011)
Period
19th Century
Form
Book
Material
Paper

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