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Auction: Darwin by Julia Margaret Cameron / 11 July 2017

The Garrett Herman collection is an unusually comprehensive group of works centred on Charles Darwin, his influences, and those who he influenced in turn. 

At the outset of his collecting life, Mr Herman concentrated on books included in Printing and the Mind of Man and Bern Dibner’s Heralds of Science, including Adam Smith (see lots 367–384) and Charles Darwin. But as the years wore on Darwin became central to the collection and Mr Herman’s acquisitions grew to encompass works by Darwin’s colleagues and friends. 

In 2004, highlights from the collection were exhibited at the Grolier Club, New York, and the accompanying book Darwin: The Evolution of the Man was published. In the introduction, Mr Herman explains his enduring fascination with Darwin: 

“I made Charles Darwin the focus of my collections because he and his life’s work have contributed to mankind in so many important ways. I particularly respect the positive values and traits he demonstrated… Darwin demonstrated humility, and kept his mind free of prejudices based on conventional wisdom of the need for recognition. When Alfred Wallace sent him a manuscript that drew conclusions similar to Darwin’s unpublished work on the same subject, Darwin chose to publish the thesis jointly with Wallace. His modest nature was also shown by his frequent references to the work of his peers. Charles Darwin was extraordinarily disciplined and fastidious, and his work exhibits quite original methods of cross-referencing and note-keeping. He saw seemingly mundane occurrences or patterns in nature in a whole different light. Through the wealth of information and data he gathered and organized, he created a platform from which to look beyond the apparent” (Grolier, Darwin, pp. 6–7).

The books on offer here (a small part of Garrett Herman’s wider collection) boast the great landmarks of Darwin’s work that one would expect: The Zoology of the Beagle (lot 252); The Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of the Beagle (lot 253); The Origin of Species (lot 265); The Descent of Man (lot 288), and so on. To this is added a wealth of supporting material of no less appeal: a group of autograph letters by Darwin, including one on the evolution of speech (lot 307); the famous photographic portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron (lot 247); a ticket to Darwin’s funeral (lot 313); and a rare broadside ballad lampooning the theory of evolution (lot 248).

Representing Mr Herman’s wider interests, the Adam Smith collection includes fine copies of both The Theory of Moral Sentiments (lot 367) and The Wealth of Nations (lot 375).

In offering these choice items from the Garrett Herman collection we can see a dedicated collector’s passion for and knowledge of the age of Darwin coming into focus.

The Age of Darwin: the Garrett Herman collection (forming lots 239-399 in English Literature & History)
Auction Sotheby's London, 11 July 2017 (viewing 7-10 July)

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