Darwin and Stokes: Books from H.M.S. Beagle at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions

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A book by Charles Darwin charting the expedition that led to his theory of evolution will join printed books, maps, works on paper and original artwork in Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions sale of Antiquarian Books. The book, which once belonged to the explorer’s cabin mate John Lort Stokes on H.M.S. Beagle, will be sold on Wednesday 18th December 2013.

The four volume work, Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of his Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle, was published in 1839 and established Darwin as an important geologist and natural historian.

Invited to join H.M.S. Beagle’s five-year voyage around South America by Captain Robert FitzRoy, Darwin was given the responsibility of contributing the volume on natural history to accompany FitzRoy’s account of the trip. Darwin spent most of his time investigating geology and collecting fossils on land with his assistant and cabin mate, John Lort Stokes.

The two formed an enduring friendship. In Marines are Warned! John Lort Stokes and H.M.S. Beagle in Australia 1837-1843 author Marsdern Hordern noted that: “In small ships on prolonged and remote service, personalities can grate and alliances founder, but in the cramped space of the Beagle’s cabin, the chairs of Darwin and Stokes always remained side by side.”

The present volumes were gifted to Stokes by Captain FitzRoy and explorer John Septimus Roe. With personal annotations throughout and bearing Stokes’s ink ownership inscription, they are accompanied by other works from and relating to Stokes and his voyages on H.M.S. Beagle. The collection is estimated at £15,000-20,000 [Lot 448].

Original watercolours by an artist from the circle of Edouard Pingret, produced at the time of Beagle’s voyage, illustrate the native costume of South America that Darwin would have observed whilst on board. The collection of 23 original illustrations together with studies from French and Italian peasantry is estimated at £2,000-3,000 [Lot 380].

Rembert Dodoens’ A Nievve Herball or Historie of Plantes (1578) was the foundation of natural history literature for academics like Darwin. A first edition (pictured left) bears the ink inscriptions of previous owners, Lady Eleanor Savage, wife of Sir John Savage of Cheshire 1584 and Walt Tooker, 1681. This important book, translated into English by Henry Lyte, is estimated at £5,000-7,000 [Lot 451].

The sale will be held at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions, in London on Wednesday 18th December, with viewing Monday 16th November (9.30am-5.30pm) and Tuesday 17th (9.30am-7.30pm). The catalogue is available to view online here and information about online bidding with no additional fee is available at www.dnfa.com.

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