# 42385

DARWIN, Charles (1809-1882); ROYER, Clémence-Auguste (translator)

De l’origine des espèces; ou des lois du progrès chez les êtres organisés. (First French edition of Darwin’s On the origin of species; with an autograph note signed by the translator, Clémence Royer)

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Traduit en français sur la troisième Édition avec l’autorisation de l’Auteur par Mlle CLÉMENCE-AUGUSTE ROYER. Paris, Guillaumin & Cie, Victor Masson & fils, 1862. Octavo, contemporary quarter pebbled morocco over textured cloth, marbled endpapers, pp. lxiv; xxiii; [blank]; 25 – 712, folding lithographed plate (some offsetting as usual), very small ink stain to head of first few leaves, text block slightly cracked, occasional light foxing, marginal notes to p. 341; a very good copy of the highly controversial first French edition; [ACCOMPANIED BY] Clémence-Auguste Royer (1830-1902), philosopher, scientist, feminist: autograph note, signed. Manuscript in ink on waxy laid paper with the embossed initials C. R., 1 page (written on the first side only of a bifolium), duodecimo (130 x 105 mm); undated (but probably 1863 rather than 1868, as a later annotation in pencil probably incorrectly suggests); in fine condition. An internal reference to Royer’s recent meeting with Calonne’s wife allows us to deduce that the note is addressed to Alphonse de Calonne (1818-1902), founder of the Revue Contemporaine. Royer writes to arrange a meeting with Calonne himself to discuss the manuscript of her novel, which she had left with Madame de Calonne. Presumably this refers to Les Jumeaux d’Hellas, Royer’s only novel, which was published in 1864 after she had achieved widespread publicity for her translation of Darwin.

The 1859 first edition of On the Origin of Species, a great rarity, has been described as ‘… the most important biological work ever written’ (Freeman), and as ‘… the most important single work in science’ (Dibner). Printing and the Mind of Man observes that ‘[the work] revolutionized our methods of thinking and our outlook on the natural order of things. The recognition that constant change is the order of the universe had been finally established and a vast step forward in the uniformity of nature had been taken.’

The French edition of 1862 was translated from the third English edition of 1861 by Clémence-Auguste Royer (1830-1902), once described in a letter by Darwin as ‘one of the cleverest & oddest women in Europe’. It is not known how Royer was selected to make the translation, and Darwin did not proof the translation prior to publication. Royer was familiar with the writings of evolutionist Lamarck, and in her translation utilised terms such as “élection naturelle” rather than “sélection naturelle” for the phrase “natural selection”, which steered Darwin’s theory towards Lamarckian theory of progressive evolution rather than Darwinian natural selection. Unbeknownst to Darwin, she added a 60-page preface and numerous footnotes to the text, which was not only blasphemous to the Church (in contrast to Darwin’s apologetic tone), but also had the unfortunate result of Royer’s translation lending implicit support to a theory of eugenics that advocated the elimination of the weak and infirm. Darwin painstakingly corrected Royer’s errors for the second edition, which was published under his supervision; remarkably, however, Royer published a third French edition in which she criticised some of Darwin’s arguments in her own revised preface, and in which she wilfully ignored any corrections Darwin had made in the fourth and fifth London editions.

In an exasperated letter to Hooker dated November 1869, Darwin writes :

I must enjoy myself and tell you about Madame C. Royer who translated the Origin into French and for which 2d edition I took infinite trouble. She has now just brought out a 3d edition without informing me so that all the corrections to the 4th and 5th editions are lost. Besides her enormously long and blasphemous preface to the 1st edition she has added a 2nd preface abusing me like a pick-pocket for pangenesis which of course has no relation to Origin. Her motive being, I believe, because I did not employ her to translate “Domestic animals”. So I wrote to Paris; & Reinwald agrees to bring out at once a new translation for the 5th English Edition in Competition with her 3e edition — So shall I not serve her well? By the way this fact shows that “evolution of species” must at last be spreading in France.

An extraordinary chapter in the fascinating publishing history of Darwin’s On the origin of species.

Freeman 655