Darwin ‘Origin’ page may be sold abroad

A temporary export bar has been placed on a handwritten page from Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

The page from what is considered one of the most important books every published, in which Darwin outlines his theory of evolution, shows Darwin’s own corrections and reworking. Valued at £490,000 it is due to be auctioned with two other pages from Darwin’s The Expressions of the Emotions of Man and Animals, together estimated at £800,000.

Written in 1859 at his home, Down House in Kent, the page, number 324, forms part of Darwin’s conclusion for Chapter 8, on hybridism, and is the only substantial part of the chapter to survived.

“Handwritten drafts of Charles Darwin’s books are of the greatest rarity” said Peter Barber of the Reviewing Committee on Export of Works of Art. “The few surviving sheets, touched by and written on by him, with evidence of pauses for contemplation, or spurts reflecting the rapid flow of thought, bring one closer to the man and his process of creation than perhaps anything else.  

“The fragments under threat of export are particularly important. They show how Darwin revised his texts, pinning successive revisions onto sheets containing an earlier draft.”

The decision by culture minister Michael Ellis on the export licence application for the pages will be deferred until 7 May 2019 to allow public collections here to raise the money, and this may be extended until 7 September 2019.

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