On the Law which has regulated the Introduction of New Species (1855). ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE.
On the Law which has regulated the Introduction of New Species (1855)
On the Law which has regulated the Introduction of New Species (1855)
On the Law which has regulated the Introduction of New Species (1855)

On the Law which has regulated the Introduction of New Species (1855)

"Every species has come into existence coincident both in time and space with a pre-existing closely allied species...

“Granted the law, and many of the most important facts in Nature could not have been otherwise, but are almost as necessity deductions from it, as are the elliptic orbits of the planets from the law of gravitation.
Sarawak, Borneo, Feb. 1855.”
– Alfred Russel Wallace, p. 196


EXCEEDINGLY RARE FIRST PRINTING OF WALLACE’S INFLUENTIAL EARLIEST PAPER ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES; A MAJOR INFLUENCE ON DARWIN'S WORK.

The recent redux of Alfred Russel Wallace and his contributions to science has led scholars to place him shoulder-to-shoulder with Charles Darwin in the mid-nineteenth-century march towards a theory of evolution by natural selection. “Like Darwin,” one consortium writes, Wallace “was a truly remarkable nineteenth century intellect and polymath and, according to a recent book by Roy Davies (The Darwin Conspiracy: Origins of a Scientific Crime), he has a stronger claim to the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection than has Darwin.” (Lloyd, Wimpenny and Venables, p. 339).

At the apex of contemporary estimations of Wallace’s output is the present work, “On the Law which has Regulated the Introduction of New Species”—often referred to as the Sarawak Law. As “a stunning scientific review”, the present paper represents Wallace’s “first attempt at biological generalization” and the fruits of his “prodigious ability to spot patterns in the apparently chaotic (and largely uncatalogued) world of tropical diversity” (Berry, p. 163).

Though Wallace did not conceive of the “mechanism by which the transformations could occur”—consequently presenting his ideas cautiously, for example, “not using the term ‘evolution’ and using the term common ‘antitype’ instead of common ‘ancestor’”—“all of the major Darwinian themes are clearly portended—gradualism, utility, adaptation to different environments, allopatric speciation, imperfection of the fossil record and so forth” (Lloyd, Wimpenny and Venables, pp. 342–44).

After the first of his eight years surveying the Malay Archipelago, Wallace produced the Sarawak Law, concluding that “every species has come into existence coincident both in space and time with a pre-existing closely allied species” (Wallace, p. 186). In 1855, “he sent a paper outlining these ideas to Darwin, who saw such a striking coincidence to his own theory that he consulted his closest colleagues, the geologist Charles Lyell and the botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker.” (Britannica). From this emerged Wallace’s and Darwin’s joint paper with the Linnaen Society of that year, in addition to a clear direction of influence from Wallace to Darwin. “On 16 April 1856 Lyell discussed Wallace’s paper with Darwin, urging him to publish his own views on species as soon as possible. Darwin then began what we now call the long version of the Origin, and that version was used as a basis for the Origin as published in 1859” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography, p. 135). Thus Wallace’s “On the Law which has Regulated the Introduction of New Species” provided a direct impetus for Darwin to complete On the Origin of Species, and played a salient role in the genesis of modern evolutionary theory and natural selection.

WALLACE, ALFRED RUSSEL. “On the Law which has regulated the Introduction of New Species.” IN: The Annals and Magazine of Natural History, including Zoology, Botany, and Geology, vol. 16, second series. London: Taylor and Francis, 1855. vii, 472 pp. (of which Wallace’s paper constitutes pp. 184–196), 11 pls. Recent half scarlet morocco, gilt spine. A fine copy, without any institutional stamps.

An essential text documenting the development of the theory of evolution. FAMOUSLY SCARCE: We know of no copies that have appeared at auction.

References:

Berry, A., “Evolution’s Red-Hot Radical”, Nature 496 (2013), 162–64
Camerini, J. R., “Alfred Russel Wallace”, Encyclopedia Britannica
Davies, Roy, The Darwin Conspiracy: Origins of a Scientific Crime (London: Golden Square, 2008)
Gillespie, Charles Coulston and Frederic Lawrence Holmes (eds.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 16 vols. (New York: Charles Schribner’s Sons, 1970–80), XIV
Lloyd, David, Julian Wimpenny and Alfred Venables, “Alfred Russel Wallace Deserves Better”, Journal of Biosciences 35.3 (2010), 339–49.

Price: $27,500 .

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