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What was Darwin’s Origin actually called

Last updated on 27 Feb 2019

So, I got caught parroting half-remembered factoids, to Down House no less, that the Origin dropped the “On” from the start of the title with the fourth edition. In my defence, I was making use of Darwin Online, the Cambridge University site that collates all of Darwin’s publications and a whole lot more, in their list of editions of the Origin in English. So I got called out, and rightly so. If you’re going to be a pedant, at least be an accurate one.

Fortunately the Darwin Online site has images of the the title pages of the various editions, so here they are:

1859 first UK edition:

1859 Origin F373 008

Clearly has the “On”. So too do the second (1860), third (1861), fourth (1866) and fifth (1869).

1860 Origin F376 0081861 Origin F381 0101866 Origin F385 0101869 Origin F387 008

The sixth, however, which was the most widely distributed edition, has dropped the “On”.

1876 Origin F401 008

However, under Asa Gray’s oversight, Appleton of New York published editions as well (1860, 1871), which did not completely follow the British editions:

1860 OriginUSA F377 010Screenshot 2018 07 27 17 34

All have the “On”. In 1899, Hurst and Co published a version, and they dropped the “On”.

So technically, it should have the “On”… mea culpa.


Darwin, Charles Robert, and Morse Peckham. The Origin of Species: A Variorum Text. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1959.