Wallace's annotated copy of the 1858 Darwin-Wallace paper on natural selection

Probably the historically most important of all the enclosures to any of Wallace's correspondence in the Wallace Family Archive at the Natural History Museum, London, is an offprint of the famous 1858 Darwin-Wallace paper on natural selection - the scientific article which launched the evolution revolution. This paper is widely regarded as being one of the most important scientific papers of all time, and what is special about the NHM's copy is that it was owned and annotated by Wallace. A pdf of this document is now available for the first time. Please CLICK HERE to download it.

The Darwin-Wallace paper was published by the Linnean Society of London in August 1858 and although we don't know who sent the offprint to Wallace, or when, we do know for sure that it must have been sent to him from England by post and that he carried it about with him whilst he was in the Malay Archipelago. The reason we know this is that there is a relatively long pencil annotation on a blank end page of the offprint which was written by Wallace on Amboina [Ambon] Island in February 1860. This note is of extreme interest to scholars as it gives Wallace's first recorded reaction to reading Darwin's On the Origin of Species for the first time. Here is a transcription of it:

1860. Feb.

After reading Mr Darwin's admirable work "On the Origin of Species", I find that there is absolutely nothing here that is not in almost perfect agreement with that gentlemans facts & opinions.

His work however touches upon & explains in detail many points which I had scarcely thought upon, - as the laws of variation, correlation of growth, sexual selection, the origin of instincts and of neuter insects, & the true explanation of Embryological affinities. Many of his facts & explanations in Geographical distribution are also quite new to me & of the highest interest -

ARWallace [signature] .. Amboina

If you would like to read more about the history of this offprint and the annotations on it, then please see my chapter in the book Natural Selection & Beyond which can be read by CLICKING HERE. For an account of Wallace's discovery of natural selection, and why it came to be published with Darwin, CLICK HERE. Finally, for a transcription of the Darwin-Wallace paper CLICK HERE.

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