Signed Charles Darwin draft manuscript for sale for $200,000

Bonhams New York are offering a Charles Darwin manuscript draft leaf 'Descent of Man' on 25th October with an estimate of $200,000 - $300,000.

Charles Darwin draft manuscript to sell at Bonhams
Image: Bonhams


The draft covers the outline of the subjects covered in chapter II and has been signed at the base by Charles Darwin.

Chapters 2 & 3 of Descent of Man were written by Darwin in early 1870.

In Chapter 2 Darwin writes "Comparison of the Mental Powers of Man & the Lower Animals," with his theory that the moral sense of human beings had it's origins in the animal instinct.

The theory caused him much consternation as he later wrote to the American Botanist Asa Gray "I find the man-essay very interesting but very difficult; & the difficulties of the Moral sense has caused me much labour.' as part of a 300 letter correspondence between the two.

Documents from the original manuscript of 'Descent of Man' are rare, with this one especially so as it shows Darwin's workings.on one of his most important documents.

The provenance states the item was last sold by Sotheby's in London in December 1986.

Signed Darwin works are rare with one of the few items appearing at auction being a signed handwritten letter reflecting on the success of 'On the Origin of the Species.

In that letter Darwin wrote "My book has been far more successful as yet, than i dreamed of" and sold for $144,020 at RR Auction.

Bonhams have a fine history with Darwin memorabilia with A first edition of On the Origin of Species selling for a $500,075 in New York in November 2021.

The record price is the £788,000 paid in December 2017 for a copy of On the Origin of Species with Darwin's handwritten notes, that had belonged to another of his correspondents, the German palaeontologist Melchior Neumayr.

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