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From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin's Four Great Books Hardcover – 28 Oct 2005

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1712 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Slipcased ed edition (28 Oct. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393061345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393061345
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 8.1 x 24.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 378,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"...will bring the wonders of Darwin to a wide audience. [Darwin] was not only great in his time, but if anything he is even greater today." John Tyler Bonner, The Times Literary Supplement "Anyone who wishes to start the new year with a real intellectual feast will buy the four 'great books' of Darwin, published in one volume by W.W. Norton." A.N. Wilson, The Daily Telegraph

About the Author

Naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882) is the father of evolution. His groundbreaking The Origin of Species argued that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection. As much as anyone in the modern era, Darwin has changed the course of human thought. Edward O. Wilson is widely recognized as one of the world's preeminent biologists and naturalists. The author of more than twenty books, including The Creation, The Social Conquest of Earth, The Meaning of Human Existence, and Letters to a Young Scientist, Wilson is a professor emeritus at Harvard University. The winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, he lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I dont think I can add anything to what Darwin writes.

All I can say is that the book is really nice.
The best paper, print and font I have seen in quite some time in books. Very readable.
I dont own any other books on Darwin, but the pictures are also crisp. suppose to have been cleaned and enhanced.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A must have on your bookshelf. Superb copy of the original. Beautiful illustrations. Bought as present for my partner. All four books in one. Great!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gift for granddaughter to study for Degree.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x96f65d5c) out of 5 stars 63 reviews
168 of 175 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96f7e7bc) out of 5 stars Darwin's fine writing is not entirely well served here 12 Jun. 2006
By 55anonymous55 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Darwin was not just a top-notch scientist but also a gifted author. He had a very lively mind, and he read everything, which means he had a gift for finding just the right example to illustrate his point. And he always tries to make his case with modesty and thoughtfulness, the best way to convince a skeptic.

This edition of Darwin's four most famous works is beautifully printed and physically attractive. It's also sturdily bound, a good idea given the huge page count. However, there are two aspects of this edition that I regret:

--The footnotes are all printed as endnotes, so you have to flip back and forth. (This seems so strange to me: any word processing program can handle footnotes without difficulty, so why can't publishers cope with them?)

--I also regret that the distinguished editor, E. O. Wilson, did not add his own footnotes. When I read Darwin's more speculative remarks, I'd like to know: "Did this pan out; was Darwin in fact right on this point?". The books would benefit greatly from follow-up remarks, in light of the huge progress made in evolutionary theory since Darwin's day. Wilson's own vast knowledge would have made him an ideal candidate to provide such commentary.

But don't let my quibbles deter you. These books are deeply inspiring and very much worth your time.
88 of 89 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96f7e810) out of 5 stars Best One-Volume Collection of Darwin's Primary Works 27 Feb. 2006
By Jamyang Norbu - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I know of at least three publishers, Norton, Running Press and Barnes & Noble, who have recently come out with single volume collections of Darwin's four major works. This particular collection published by Norton is by far the most complete and useful. First of all the book has been edited by the eminent Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson. Wilson provides an introductory essay for the collection and separate introductions for the four books. The essays are clear and informative, though I would have liked them to be longer. Still we are provided with separate indexes for all four books including a general index. The Running Press collection, by comparison, lacks an index and has, furthermore, had most illustrations removed.

The only complaint I have about the Norton book is that Darwin's footnotes have been converted to endnotes. A bit of an annoyance.
86 of 94 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x972dd00c) out of 5 stars The most important idea ever presented... 21 Dec. 2005
By Dennis Mitton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I think it was Gould who lamented the fact that so few people have actually read Darwin. I'll admit that he's not always easy reading but it's almost always rewarding and this small collection puts his four primary works right on your desk.

Darwin's writings are far from the last word on evolution and natural selection and enormous strides have been made since he first presented his ideas. That doesn't diminish the importance of these works though. Feynman always went back to the original authors in his study of physics and found that it gave him a tremendous edge in understanding new ideas: once you have a firm foundation and basis of understanding it's easier to see how new ideas fit in or change the central dogma. In the same way these volumes are necessary for an understanding of the historical questions concerning evolution and for the still current debates.

I found the introduction and notes by Wilson to be a real help that added to the text. Darwin's ideas are seminal and still so controversial to out culture at large that we still fight over them. Reading through this collection can help gain a deeper perspective into Darwin, his ideas, and the entire study of evolution.
54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96f7ea98) out of 5 stars A good choice, but there may be others too 19 Oct. 2007
By Pork Chop - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Having also considered the alternative collection "The Evolution Of An
Idea by James Watson " I arrived at this work, from the couple dozen
small newspaper-style, mini-illustrations on same pages, and the feedback
received from this work.

Actually, it's an open debate whether this is the best option. First,
all 4 books are glued together in one giant "tome" ...and this doesn't
facilitate reading, from the size or the volume. Also, the pages are
extremely thin, although not transparent, and probably smudge easily
and are fragile. That's another liability, if one makes notes in the
pages, probably the ink will leak to the other size, etc.

Perhaps the best option, is buying all 4 books separately, and reading
them one at a time.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96f7ecd8) out of 5 stars Great Text of Darwin's Original, Unedited Works 1 July 2012
By F. Gwin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At this point in history, no one who is buying a text like this is really reviewing the content. Therefore, if you are looking to buy this text you are not really looking for whether or not the book is worth the read but whether or not it is the best edition available. That being said, this is the best possible edition of one of the most well known books in human history!

I really can't find much to complain about while reading this book. The pages are well formatted with an easy to read text style and format, the images (some of which were actually in the original editions) are useful and help to add to the experience of reading, and the italics and bolded letters at the beginning of sections make it very easy to follow the thought progression even when you are reading while tired. Despite the later updates even during the life of Darwin and the universal rejection of several of his ideas later on, this collection is very well put together and is the best source of the original works available. Any Darwinist should own and read a copy.

I uploaded some pictures of my copy, so go to the top of the page and you can view them by running your mouse over the icons of other pictures which appear under the amazon picture of the book on the left side of the screen.
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