[DARWIN, Charles Robert]. [Review of ] A Natural History of Mammalia… by G.R. Waterhouse, esq., of the British Museum. Taylor & Francis. 1847.
8vo. Later rebound in half red morocco, marbled boards, spine with gilt raised bands and gilt lettering, edges speckled; pp. vvii + [i] + 480 (Darwin pp. 53-56), 14 plates, text illustrations; near fine. Provenance: blindstamp of Cranbrook Institute of Science, Michigan, to contents page.
First edition of The Annals and Magazine of Natural History, volume 19. This volume includes a very rare, long and anonymously published review by Darwin of his friend Waterhouse's new book, which covers marsupials and was intended as the first part of a never-finished survey of the entire Mammalia.. It is an early Darwin publication, coming more than ten years before the publication of On the Origin of Species, and shows clear signs of the visionary thinker that he was. It contains some of the earliest published intimations of his developing thoughts on evolution. One very telling passage is this:
"A distinguishing feature in this work is the notice of all fossil species, interpolated in their proper places; hence, when the whole is completed, we shall have a comprehensive view of the entire class of Mammalia, as far as known; and the accident of extinction will not remove from the series, as is too often the case, in systematic works, allied or intermediate forms" (p. 54).
Darwin also sees in Waterhouse's work a glimmer of the discipline of biogeography which would later be developed by Alfred Russel Wallace: "An admirable feature… is the great attention paid to Geographical distribution, that noble subject of which we as yet but dimly see the full bearing" (p 55).
George Robert Waterhouse (1810-1888) was a longstanding friend of Darwin, who he had invited to join him on the Beagle fifteen years earlier. Though Waterhouse had turned down the invitation, he wrote the Mammalia volume of Darwin's Zoology of the Voyage of HMS Beagle. There was a flow of ideas between them that suggest that Darwin may have influenced Waterhouse's thinking on the classification of species in his marsupial book: "Darwin and Waterhouse exchanged several letters, often discussing issues of the classification of species. Importantly, Darwin suggests to Waterhouse the idea of ‘grouping beings’ according to their ‘descent from common stock’ in a letter of 1843." (https://darwinproject.ac.uk/george-robert-waterhouse). The opening of this letter, dated 26 July 1843 and concerning the marsupials that were the subject of Waterhouse's book, clearly informs his use of classification, which Darwin praises in his review, and Darwin's own thinking on the origin of species: "According to my opinion, (which I give every one leave to hoot at, like I should have, six years since, hooted at them, for holding like views) classification consists in grouping beings according to their actual relationship, ie their consanguinity, or descent from common stocks— In this view all relations of analogy &c &c &, consist of those resemblances between two forms, which they do not owe to having inherited it, from a common stock." (https://darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-684.xml). It would seem that Waterhouse's book, and Darwin's involvement with it, marked a significant stage in the development of the theory of natural selection.