November 24, 2009

Happy Birthday to Darwin’s Origin of a Species, and Happy Day for Some Lucky Stiff


Charles Darwin

Today is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin‘s game-changing book, On the Origin of Species. It was first published on Nov. 24, 1859 in a run of 1,250 copies.

And, according to a brief wire story from the Associated Press, some lucky stiff just found one of those copies on the bookshelf in his guest lavatory in Oxford, England. (Bookshelf! Guest lavatory! You’re not in a New York studio apartment anymore, Toto.) You might think he doesn’t need those 60,000 pounds, or approx. $100,000, the book is set to go for at auction.

But go it will. Christie’s auction house has declared it in near perfect condition except for being “lightly bumped” around the corners, and it’s still in its original green cloth binding. Margaret Ford, head of books and manuscripts at Christie’s, told the Money Times in this report, that “a picture of the book’s spine was recognized by the present owner’s son-in-law at a Darwin exhibition. The owner then only realized that the book in the washroom was special.” He’d purchased it for just a few shillings forty years earlier.

The lesson, obviously: Don’t hesitate to visit the loo when in England.

Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.