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The Annotated Origin

The Annotated Origin

A Facsimile of the First Edition of On the Origin of Species

Charles Darwin

ISBN 9780674060173

Publication date: 04/15/2011

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is the most important and yet least read scientific work in the history of science. Now James T. Costa—experienced field biologist, theorist on the evolution of insect sociality, and passionate advocate for teaching Darwin in a society in which a significant proportion of adults believe that life on earth has been created in its present form within the last 10,000 years—has given a new voice to this epochal work. By leading readers line by line through the Origin, Costa brings evolution’s foundational text to life for a new generation.
The Annotated Origin is the edition of Darwin’s masterwork used in Costa’s course at Western Carolina University and in Harvard’s Darwin Summer Course at Oxford. A facsimile of the first edition of 1859 is accompanied by Costa’s extensive marginal annotations, drawing on his extensive experience with Darwin’s ideas in the field, lab, and classroom. This edition makes available an accessible, useful, and practical resource for anyone reading the Origin for the first time or for those who want to reread it with the insights and perspective that a working biologist can provide.


  • On the Origin of Species has too long been one of those worthy books whose fate is to be lauded but unread. Jim Costa's deft commentary—an authoritative and engaging mix of history and science—will change that. The Origin is forbidding and inaccessible no longer—it has evolved! The Annotated Origin restores, for modern readers, the freshness and excitement that made it a bestseller when it first appeared. Charles Darwin, I'm sure, couldn't wish for a better 200th birthday present.

    —Andrew Berry, editor of Infinite Tropics: An Alfred Russel Wallace Anthology


  • James T. Costa is Executive Director of Highlands Biological Station and Professor of Biology at Western Carolina University.

Book Details

  • 576 pages
  • Belknap Press
  • Introduction and notes by James T. Costa

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