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From So Simple a Beginning - The Four Great Books of Charles Darwin edited by Edward O. Wilson

A few months ago I treated myself to a copy of Edward O. Wilson's 'From So Simple a Beginning', a one-volume collection of Charles Darwin's four major works.  Included are The Voyage of the Beagle, On the Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, and The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals.  It is a beautifully produced book: well bound and printed with clear diagrams and comprehensive indices.  It even comes in its own box sleeve.  If it has one fault, it is that it is rather too heavy for me to carry in my bag and so I cannot read it on the train to and from work.  Still, it fits very nicely on my bedside table.

The introductions that Wilson has written to each book are interesting enough but, at only 2 to 3 pages each, they are only a very minor part of the book.  I will talk about Darwin's 'contributions' to this volume later, as and when I finish reading them.

James D. Watson has also recently published a one-volume collection of Darwin's works (Darwin: The Indelible Stamp; The Evolution of an Idea). I came across a copy recently and, from what I've seen of it, it looks somewhat inferior to Wilson's book (as if less care had gone into its production).  In his autobiography 'Naturalist', Wilson describes how Watson and other molecular biologists more-or-less pushed traditional biologists, like himself, to one side in the Harvard University biology department during the 1950's and 1960's.  Well, with From So Simple a Beginning', Wilson has at last got the better of his old 'enemy'!

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