Wednesday, June 17, 2009

First-edition Darwin book sells for £15,625

This article relates to when Dr. Bob asked John van Whye about the value of a Darwin during our lunch at Conduit Head.

Would you rather buy a new, mid-value car or an original Darwin book?
I ask because the cost is about the same.

Society has imparted a high value to Charles Darwin and his 'Origins of Species." This was demonstrated a few days ago when a first edition of his famous book sold for 15,625 pounds at an auction. It follows a similar purchase in April that was valued at 35000 pounds. Clearly, the collection of Darwin memorabilia has become a high-priced, elitist hobby at present.

This article raises a question I have long asked: What exactly gives items value? So far, I have understood that art pieces have their value determined by a combination of small, elite circles of art aficionados, social events, and pure seredipity. Then, for items like potato chips that look like the Virgin Mary or cow hides with America-shaped spots, their value is gained out of sensation and in my opinion, an excess of money. Specifically, what does the high-prices that Darwin memorabilia are going for imply about Darwin and his work?

In my opinion, these ground breakingly high-prices testify that Darwin and his works have taken on a semblance of revolutionary and iconic thought. Like other high-value collectors items, their appeal and price comes largely from their ability to convey something that is inexpressible such as defining an art movement. For the Darwin memorabilia, their intrinsic primacy comes from the role they played in the historic and ongoing passionate conflict about our origins attached to his work. The immense monetary worth of these books demonstrate to me how Darwin's works have taken precedence in the definition of our society.


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