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Evolving price for Darwin book

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Hindman Auctions set a world record for a first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species when the famous book fetched $564500 (more than R8million) at a Chicago auction in November.

The copy, previously owned by US philanthropist Paul Mellon, who died in 1999, sold for more than double the presale estimate of $120000 to $180000.

A few months earlier, a copy of the book was sold by Bonhams for the previous record price of $500075. This book was originally owned by German botanist Robert Caspary, who received it from Darwin.

Darwin, a British naturalist and biologist who developed the theory of evolution by observing and studying birds, plants and fossils around the world, published the book in 1859. His revolutionary scientific theory is widely regarded as a milestone in the history of science but caused a major controversy as it clashed with religious beliefs about creation.

The book, on sale initially with 1 250 copies, was sold out immediately. A second edition followed in 1860 and a third was published one year later. Second and third editions are now selling on auctions for up to $15000 but rare first editions continue to escalate in value, now seldom fetching under $100 000.

Darwin died in 1882, by which time he had convinced scientists that evolution – with degrees of modification – was correct.

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