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1862 Darwin orchid book cover mistake

1862 Darwin orchid book cover mistake

C011/0981

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Credit

PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

A swan orchid "Cycnoches" in gilt on the front cover of the first edition (plum, ribbed) of "On the Various Contrivances by which Orchids are fertilised by Insects and the good effects of intercrossing" by Charles Darwin (John Murray 1862). This was the only Murray edition of Darwin not to have the standard drab green covers, and it made an unfortunate mistake. The orchid is in fact illustrated upside-down - an understandable mistake by the publisher given that cycnoches orchid flowers always appear to be "upside-down" in the wild. Darwin, who always strove for perfection in detail, would have hated it but this was not part of the proof returned to him, and the second edition was in the standard green with no gilded decoration. His orchid book was the first part of his effort to publish in more detail the proofs of his "Origin of Species" 1859 which had been only an abstract of a much larger intended work.

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