Philosophie zoologique, ou exposition des considérations relatives à l’histoire naturelle des animaux …

Paris: Dentu; the author, 1809.

First edition, a truly extraordinary copy printed on thick paper (papier vélin) and bound in contemporary red morocco gilt with arms, of Lamarck’s most complete presentation of his theory of evolution, “a classic in the literature of evolutionary theory” (PMM). Part I of the Philosophie zoologique presents in detail Lamarck’s theory of evolution as the result of two factors, the tendency of species toward increasing complexity and the influence of the environment, responsible for all variations from this norm. Although the concept of ranging all forms of life in a single series, from the simplest to the most complicated, dated back to antiquity, Lamarck’s innovation was to suggest “that this scale corresponds to an order of historical development of the higher forms. This he did by tracing the progression in the reverse direction and observing the gradual changing, simplification and ultimate disappearance of the features distinguishing the higher forms as each lower scale is reached” (PMM). In Part II, Lamarck “developed his views on the physical nature of life, its spontaneous productions resulting in simple cellular tissue, and its characteristics at the simplest level, the lower ends of the plant and animal series … The third part contains the most important additions to the earlier theories. In this section Lamarck deals in great detail with the problem of a physical explanation for the emergence of higher mental facilities … Lamarck’s breakthrough was tying a progressive development of higher mental facilities in a physical way to structural development of the nervous system … Higher mental faculties could emerge precisely because they were a product of increased structural complexity … For Lamarck one of the most important events in the evolutionary process was the development of the nervous system, particularly the brain, because at that point animals began to from ideas and control their movements” (DSB). Darwin initially discredited Lamarck’s theory but later redacted his opinion in the ‘Historical Introduction’ to the third edition of On the Origin of Species stating Lamarck “did the eminent service of arousing attention to the probability of all change in the organic as well as in the inorganic world being the result of law, and not of miraculous intervention” (PMM). “Lamarck’s great intellectual journey began with a public address about evolution, delivered in 1800 during a month that the revolutionary government had auspiciously named Floréal, or flowering. He then developed the first comprehensive theory of evolution in modern science – an achievement that won him a secure place in any scientific hall of fame or list of immortals – despite the vicissitudes of his reputation during his own lifetime and immediately thereafter” (Stephen Jay Gould, The Lying Stones of Marrakech, p. 141). ABPC/RBH record the sale of only three other copies since Norman, and no other large-paper copies.

Provenance: Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambaceres, Arch-chancellor and duke of Parma (1753-1824) (gilt arms on covers). De Cambaceres was Napoleon I's esteemed adviser, exercising extended powers during the Emperor’s absences. He built a remarkable library, mainly composed of works on law and science.

“Lamarck states [in the Philosophie zoologique] that his new theory is needed in order to explain two well-known phenomena in the world of organisms. The first is that animals show a graded series of ‘perfection.’ Under increasing perfection Lamarck understood the gradual increase in ‘animality’ from the simplest animals to those with the most complex organization, culminating in man. He did not assess perfection in terms of adaptedness to the environment or by the role an organism plays in the economy of nature but simply in terms of complexity. The other phenomenon in need of explanation is the amazing diversity of organisms … A further ingredient added by Lamarck is the actual transformation of species in a phyletic line. ‘After a long succession of generations … individuals, originally belonging to one species, become at length transformed into a new species distinct from the first’ (pp. 38-39 – references here and below are to Elliott’s English translation, 1914). Everywhere in his discussions Lamarck reiterates the slowness and gradualness of evolutionary change … ‘An enormous time and wide variation in successive conditions must doubtless have been required to enable nature to bring the organization of animals to that degree of complexity and development in which we see it at its perfection’ (p. 50). This is no problem because for nature ‘time has no limits and can be drawn upon to any extent’ (p. 114).

“Numerous students of Lamarck's work have asked themselves what new observations or new insights had induced Lamarck to adopt this new viewpoint in 1800. What apparently happened was that, in the late 1790s, Lamarck took over the mollusk collection of the Paris Museum after the death of his friend Bruguière. When he started to study these collections which contained both fossil and recent mollusks, he found that many of the living species of mussels and other marine mollusks had analogues among fossil species. Indeed it was possible, in many cases, to arrange the fossils of the earlier and more recent Tertiary strata into a chronological series terminating in a recent species. In some cases where the material was sufficiently complete, it was possible to establish virtually unbroken phyletic series. In other cases, he found that the recent species extended far back into the Tertiary strata. The conclusion became inescapable that many phyletic series had undergone a slow and gradual change throughout time. Probably no other group of animals was as suitable for bringing about such a conclusion as the marine mollusks … The recognition of phyletic series was of particular importance to Lamarck because it solved for him a problem which apparently had disturbed him for a long time, the problem of extinction.

“Ever since the study of fossils had become more intense, it had become apparent that many of the fossil species are quite unlike the living ones. The ammonites, so abundant in many Mesozoic deposits, are one conspicuous example. The situation became more acute when fossil mammals were discovered in the eighteenth century, such as mastodons in North America and mammoths in Siberia. Finally, Cuvier described entire faunas of fossil mammals from various horizons of the Paris basin. The more sober naturalists and students of fossils eventually accepted the fact that the earth had been inhabited in former eras by creatures that had since become extinct, and not all of them at the same time …

“Most of the philosophers of the Enlightenment and the first half of the nineteenth century were deists. Their God was not allowed to interfere with the universe, once he had created it. Any such interference would be a miracle, and which philosopher could afford to support miracles after what Hume and Voltaire had said about them? This created a formidable dilemma. Either one had to deny the occurrence of extinction, which is what Lamarck did (more or less), or else one had to postulate a law established at the original time of creation to account for the steady disappearance and appearance of new species through geological time. But how could such a law ‘of the introduction of new species’ operate without being ‘special creation’? This was the (never fully articulated) objection Darwin raised against Lyell, who postulated such a law …

“The discovery of fossil species analogous to still living ones afforded Lamarck the long-sought-for solution to a major puzzle. ‘May it not be possible … that the fossils in question belonged to species still existing, but which have changed since that time and have been converted into the similar species that we now actually find?’ (p. 45) … Evolutionary change, then, was the solution to the problem of extinction …

“When drawing these conclusions, Lamarck at once noticed that this explanation was eminently logical for another reason. The earth has been forever changing during the immense period of time during which it had existed. Since a species must be in complete harmony with its environment and, since the environment constantly changes, a species must likewise change forever in order to remain in harmonious balance with its environment. If it did not, it would be faced with the danger of extinction. By introducing the time factor Lamarck had discovered the Achilles heel of natural theology. It would be possible for a creator to design a perfect organism in a static world of short duration. However, how could species have remained perfectly adapted to their environment if this environment was constantly changing, and sometimes quite drastically? How could design have foreseen all the changes of climate, of the physical structure of the surface of the earth, and of the changing composition of ecosystems (predators and competitors) if the earth was hundreds of millions of years old? Adaptations under these circumstances can be maintained only if the organisms constantly adjust themselves to the new circumstances, that is, if they evolve. Although the natural theologians, good naturalists that they were, had clearly recognized the importance of the environment and the adaptations of organisms to it, they had failed to take the time factor into consideration. Lamarck was the first to have clearly recognized the crucial importance of this factor …

“Buffon had considered the possibility of the transformation of a species into a closely related one, but had emphatically rejected applying the same conclusion to a possible transformation of entire families … Buffon had still stressed the immense gap between animals and man. Lamarck resolutely bridges this gap by considering man the end product of evolution. In fact, his description of the pathway by which our anthropoid ancestor became humanized is startlingly modern: ‘If some race of quadrumanous animals, especially one of the most perfect of them, were to lose by force of circumstances, or some other cause, the habit of climbing trees and grasping the branches with its feet in the same way as with its hands in order to hold on to them, and if the individuals of this race were forced for a series of generations to use their feet only for walking and to give up using their hands like feet there is no doubt … that these quadrumanous animals would at length be transformed into bimanous, and that their thumbs on their feet would cease to be separated from the other digits when they use their feet for walking’ and that they would assume an upright posture in order ‘to command a large and distant view’ (p. 170). Lamarck here presented his view on the origin of man with far more courage than Darwin fifty years later in the Origin. Man ‘assuredly presents the type of the highest perfection that nature could attain to: hence the more an animal organization approaches that of man the more perfect it is’ (p. 71). Since evolution is a continuing process, man will continue to evolve. ‘This predominant race, having acquired an absolute supremacy over all the rest, will ultimately establish a difference between itself and the most perfect animals, and indeed will leave them far behind’ (p. 171). Even though man has now acquired certain characteristics not found in any animal, or at least not to a similar degree of perfection, man, nevertheless, shares most of his physiological characteristics with the animals. These characteristics, very often, are more easily studied in animals than in man, and in order to achieve a full understanding of man, it is therefore ‘necessary to try to acquire knowledge of the organization of the other animals’ (p. 11).

“Lamarck recognized two separate causes as responsible for evolutionary change. The first was an endowment which provides for the acquisition of ever greater complexity (perfection). ‘Nature, in successively producing all species of animals, beginning with the most imperfect or the simplest, and ending her work with the most perfect, has caused their organization gradually to become more complex.’ The causation of this trend toward ever greater complexity is derived ‘from powers conferred by the ‘supreme author of all things’’ (pp. 60, 130) … The second cause of evolutionary change was a capacity to react to special conditions in the environment. If the intrinsic drive toward perfection were the only cause of evolution, says Lamarck, one would find an undeviating single linear sequence toward perfection. However, instead of such a sequence, in nature we encounter all sorts of special adaptations in species and genera. This, says Lamarck, is due to the fact that animals must always be in perfect harmony with their environment, and it is the behavior of animals which reestablishes this harmony when disturbed. The need to respond to special circumstances in the environment will, consequently, release the following chain of events: (1) Every considerable and continuing change in the circumstances of any race of animals brings about a real change in their needs; (2) every change in the needs of animals necessitates an adjustment in their behavior (different actions) to satisfy the new needs and, consequently, different habits; (3) every new need, necessitating new actions to satisfy it, requires of the animal that it either use certain parts more frequently than it did before, thereby considerably developing and enlarging them, or use new parts which their needs have imperceptibly developed in them ‘by virtue of the operations of their own inner sense’ …

“The crucial difference between Darwin’s and Lamarck’s mechanisms of evolution is that for Lamarck the environment and its changes had priority. They produced needs and activities in the organism and these, in turn, caused adaptational variation. For Darwin random variation was present first, and the ordering activity of the environment (‘natural selection’) followed afterwards. Hence, the variation was not caused by the environment either directly or indirectly.

“In order to provide a purely mechanistic explanation of evolutionary change, Lamarck developed an elaborate physiological theory based on the ideas of Cabanis and other eighteenth-century physiologists, invoking the action of extrinsic excitations and the movement in the body of ‘subtle fluids’ caused by the effort to satisfy the new needs. Ultimately these physiological explanations were Cartesian mechanisms, which were, of course, utterly unsuitable …

“Even though the higher taxa may appear to be separated from each other by major gaps, this is all merely a matter of appearance, for ‘nature does not pass abruptly from one system of organization to another.’ When discussing the ten classes of invertebrates recognized by him (p. 66), Lamarck insists dogmatically that ‘races may, nay must, exist near the boundaries, halfway between two classes.’ If we cannot find these postulated intermediates, it is due to their not yet having been discovered, either because they live in some remote part of the world, or owing to our incomplete knowledge ‘of past animals’ (p. 23) …

“The idea that an organ is being strengthened by use and weakened by disuse was, of course, an ancient one, to which Lamarck gave what he considered a more rigorous physiological interpretation. Still, he considered this one of the cornerstones of his theory, and dignified it as his ‘First Law.’ ‘In every animal which has not yet passed beyond the limit of its development, the more frequent and sustained use of any organ gradually strengthens, develops, and enlarges that organ, and gives it a strength proportional to the length of time it has been used; while the constant disuse of such an organ imperceptibly weakens and deteriorates it, progressively diminishing its faculties until it finally disappears’ (p. 113) …

“The second auxiliary principle of evolutionary adaptation is the belief in an inheritance of acquired characters. This is formulated by Lamarck in his ‘Second Law’: ‘Everything which nature has caused individuals to acquire or lose as a result of the influence of environmental conditions to which their race has been exposed over a long period of time – and consequently, as a result of the effects caused either by the extended use (or disuse) of a particular organ – [all this] is conveyed by generation to new individuals descending therefrom, provided that the changes acquired are common to both sexes, or to those which produce the young’ (p. 113).

“Lamarck nowhere states by what mechanism (pangenesis?) the inheritance of the newly acquired characters is effected … this concept was so universally accepted from the ancients to the nineteenth century that there was no need for Lamarck to enlarge upon it. He simply placed this principle in the service of evolution. Curiously, when Lamarckism had a revival toward the end of the nineteenth century, most of those who had never read Lamarck in the original assumed that Lamarckism simply meant a belief in the inheritance of acquired characters. Thus Lamarck received credit and blame for having originated a concept that was universally held at his time …

“Lamarck's contribution as an outstanding invertebrate zoologist and pioneering systematist was entirely ignored. Equally ignored was his important stress on behavior, on the environment and on adaptation, aspects of biology almost totally neglected by the majority of the contemporary zoologists and botanists whose taxonomy was purely descriptive. No writer prior to Lamarck had appreciated as clearly the adaptive nature of much of the structure of animals, particularly in the characteristics of families and classes. More than anyone before him, Lamarck made time one of the dimensions of the world of life …

“Lamarck's Philosophie zoologique (1809) signifies the first breakthrough of evolutionism. Yet, it required another fifty years before the theory of evolution was widely adopted. One must conclude that the creationist-essentialist world picture of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was far too powerful to yield to Lamarck's imaginative but poorly substantiated ideas. Nevertheless, the existence of a groundswell of evolutionary thought is unmistakable. The gradual improvement of the fossil record, the results of comparative anatomy, the rise of scientific biogeography, and many other developments in biological science contributed toward making evolutionary thinking ever more palatable. But this did not mean that it made Lamarck’s eighteenth-century explanatory theories more acceptable” (Mayr, pp. 345-360).

De Cambaceres was a “French statesman and legal expert who was second consul with Napoleon Bonaparte and then archchancellor of the empire. As Napoleon’s principal adviser on all juridical matters from 1800 to 1814, he was instrumental in formulating the Napoleonic Code, or Civil Code (1804), and subsequent codes. Often consulted on other matters of state, he tried to exert a moderating influence on the emperor. Member of a family long associated with thelaw, Cambacérès became counsellor in the Court of Aids at Montpellier in 1774 and president of the criminal court there in 1791. Elected to the Convention in 1792, he voted at the trial of Louis XVI for the sentence of death to take effect only if France were invaded. He kept clear of party quarrels and concerned himself mainly with judicial and legislative matters. The two successive drafts for a civil code that he and Philippe-Antoine Merlin produced were not enacted. After November 1794 he became a member of the Committee of Public Safety and occupied himself with foreign affairs, being instrumental in concluding the peace treaties of 1795 with Tuscany, Prussia, the Dutch, and Spain. When the Convention was dissolved he became a member of the Council of Five Hundred. Because he was not reelected in May 1797, he turned to his private law practice. Then in July 1799 he was appointed minister of justice.

“Having discreetly assisted Bonaparte and Emmanuel Sieyès to organize the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire, year VIII (Nov. 9, 1799), that overthrew the Directory, Cambacérès became second consul the following December. In 1802 he rendered substantial help in establishing the life consulate for Bonaparte. He was made archchancellor of the empire in 1804 and was created Duke of Parma in 1808. Presiding over the Senate and, as a rule, over the Council of State, he exercised extended powers during Napoleon’s absences.

“Excluded from public life at the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy (1814), Cambacérès reluctantly returned to it in the Hundred Days, at Napoleon’s bidding, when he directed the Ministry of Justice and presided over the Chamber of Peers. Exiled at the Second Restoration, he lived in Belgium until 1818, when he was allowed to return to France” (Britannica).

Napoleon himself “cherished a well-publicized hatred of abstract ideas … one evening in the autumn of 1804, soon after Napoleon’s arrival in Mainz on his grand tour of imperial inspection, when his metaphysically minded archchancellor, Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès, began to expound the principles of Kant. Napoleon cut him off, dismissed the sage of Königsberg as “obscure,” and abruptly left him.” (Riskin). Lamarck himself received Napoleon’s disdain for the abstract. “On a frigid day in December 1809, the members of the Institut de France attended the emperor in a chilly salon of the Palais des Tuileries to present to him their new publications … Lamarck held a copy of his Philosophie zoologique, the magnum opus in which he developed the powerful idea that living forms might transform themselves continually toward greater complexity and in response to their environments … the emperor turned to Lamarck, who presented his Philosophie zoologique. Not even looking at it, Napoleon growled “What is that? It’s your absurd ­meteorology … that volume which dishonors your advanced years. Do natural history and I’ll receive your works with pleasure; this one I take only out of consideration for your white hairs. Give it here!” Still without looking at the book, Napoleon thrust it into the hands of an aide-de-camp, while Lamarck, tears of frustration rolling down his cheeks, protested in vain that it was in fact a work of natural history” (ibid.)

Garrison-Morton 216; PMM 262; Norman 1267. Mayr, The Growth of Biological Thought, 1982. Riskin, ‘Introduction: evolution, the science Napoleon hated,’ Republic of Letters 6, 2018 (arcade.stanford.edu/rofl/introduction-evolution-science-napoleon-hated).



Three parts in two vols., 8vo (200 x 121 mm), pp. [iv], [i], ii-xxv, [1], [1], 2-428; [iv], [1], 2-475, [1], including half-titles. Contemporary long-grained red morocco, gilt roulettes, large gilt coat of arms of Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambaceres in the centre of each cover, smooth spines decorated and lettered in gilt, inner roulette, lining and endpapers of green moiré silk, gilt edges. A magnificent set in perfect condition.

Item #5503

Price: $125,000.00