The expression of the emotions in man and animals: with photographic and other illustrations.

London: John Murray, 1872.

First edition, first issue. “This is an important member of the evolutionary set, and it was written, in part at least, as a confutation of the idea that the facial muscles of expression in man were a special endowment” (Freeman, p. 141). “With this book Darwin founded the study of ethology (animal behaviour) and conveyance of information (communication theory), and made a major contribution to psychology” (DSB). “The results of Darwin’s investigations showed that in many cases expression is not learned but innate, and enabled Darwin to formulate three principles – relief of sensation or desire, antithesis, and reflex action – governing the expression of emotions” (Norman). “The Expression was an original and, for many contemporaries, a controversial book. It formed the final part of a series that had started with On the Origin of Species and had controversially peaked the previous year with the Descent of Man. The former, published in 1859, laid out Darwin's theory of descent with modification through natural selection in animals and plants: the notion that randomly occurring variation within a population, if conferring a breeding or survival advantage, tends to be preserved, leading over time to divergence. The Descent, in which he extended the theory to humans, appeared more than a decade later in 1871, its publication delayed by a reticent Darwin … For many – even those willing to concede evolution in animals – extending the thesis to humans was a step too far. Many of the author’s contemporaries pointed to human rationality, spirituality and civilization as sufficient proof of divine creation. For such critics, the dawn of humanity was a matter for theologians, not a legitimate area of study for naturalists. To convince the sceptics, it was important for Darwin to accumulate as much evidence for humans’ and animals’ shared roots as possible. The Expression was intended to do just that. Prior to its publication, the benchmark work on the human face was written by the creationist Sir Charles Bell (1774-1842). Bell believed that human facial muscles were divinely created to express uniquely human emotions. Darwin refuted this; he was sure that inner feelings of humans and animals were outwardly manifested in similar ways. For example, in both humans and animals, lips purse during concentration, anger leads to eye-muscle contraction and teeth exposure, while mouths hang agape when listening intently. He believed that such expressions must have developed through common evolutionary mechanisms, and that they were ‘daily, living proof of [our] animal ancestry.’ Originally, Expression was intended to be a single chapter in the Descent. However, the evidence quickly accumulated, anecdotes piled up and Darwin realised the work warranted its own volume. When it finally came time to write the book, it was produced in a remarkably quick four-month spell. It is written in a clear and straightforward style, perhaps testament to Darwin’s view that writing in a popular and accessible way was fundamentally important to the progress of science. Certainly it sold well: on publication, with over 9,000 volumes shifted in the first four months, Expression was initially Darwin’s most popularly successful work” ( 

“Darwin treated the emotions as separate discrete entities, or modules, such as anger, fear, disgust, etc. … Many different kinds of research—neuroscience, perception and cross-cultural evidence—show that Darwin's conceptualization of emotions as separate discrete entities is correct. Of course, each emotion also varies on attributes such as intensity or acceptability, which can be considered as dimensions that describe differences within each discrete emotion. I regard Darwin's consideration of discrete emotions to be the first of his lasting major contributions …

“The second major contribution was his focus primarily on the face, although he did give some attention to vocalizations, tears and posture. To date, facial expression has been found to be the richest source of information about emotions. The voice has yet to be shown to be a source for as many discrete emotional states as the face, although it is harder to fabricate or regulate than facial expressions.

“Darwin took for granted that it is the morphology of facial expression that conveys information about which emotion is occurring. No question that the timing of an expression carries information as well, but not about which emotion is occurring. Using photographs and engravings, Darwin took for granted that these presented the needed information about what emotion was being displayed …

“Darwin’s third major insight was that facial expressions of emotion are universal. In the last few decades the preponderance of evidence from Western and Eastern, literate and preliterate, cultures strongly supports Darwin’s claim (based on sparse evidence, but in all likelihood demonstrated to him by his experience travelling around the world on his 5-year journey on the Beagle). Universality did not support his evolutionary theory—for if we all descended from Adam and Eve, expressions would be universal. But it did support Darwin’s challenge to the racists of his time—who claimed Europeans had descended from a more advanced progenitor than Africans—by showing common descent, allowing Darwin to proclaim the unity of mankind.

“While Darwin proposed that facial expressions of emotion are universal, he also proposed that gestures are culture-specific conventions. This has proven to be correct. The same hand movement, for example the first finger touching the thumb to form a circle in the North American ‘A-OK’ gesture, has a radically different meaning in other countries. Totally different gestures may be used to signal the same message, as in the example of ‘good luck’ signalled by crossed fingers in North America and thumbs inserted into the fist in Germany. And there are messages for which there is a gesture in one country and no gesture in another country.

“The fourth insight was that emotions are not unique to humans, but found in many other species. His examples in Expression range from bees to roosters, dogs, cats, horses as well as other primates. For much of the last century that view was considered an example of bad science, of anthropomorphism. Underlying that belief was a reification of language and verbal self-report. If we cannot examine a species’ report of their experience, how can we know if emotion is occurring? That stance would require that we regard infants as not having emotions prior to their acquiring speech! Words are used to describe or reflect upon our emotional experience, but the words are representations of emotion not the sine qua non of emotion.

“A fifth contribution was Darwin’s explanation of why particular movements signal a particular emotion. Why is the upper lip raised in one of the anger expressions, for example? Darwin described this as due to it having been a ‘serviceable habit’, exposing the canine teeth threatening harm to come as well as preparing for the attack. Stripped of its Lamarckian baggage, this explanation is consistent with contemporary ethological accounts of how signals evolved from intention movements, providing the foundation for current formulations of how signals become ritualized or formalized. Darwin also proposed a principle of antithesis, whereby a signal has a certain form because it is the opposite of another signal. For example, the dog (and many other animals) puffs itself up to appear larger in a potentially antagonistic encounter, which Darwin explained as based on the principle of serviceable habits. But the antithesis of that movement is the submissive slinking and lowering of the body.

“Why, we might ask, was Darwin right about so many aspects of emotion and expression? One answer is that it was the product of his evolutionary perspective: a perspective that would suggest much of what he proposed when it is focused on emotion. Another related answer is that Darwin turned to the biology of emotion, noting what he could about the physiology of emotion, and (where in his time much more was known) the anatomy of facial expression. He utilized the anatomical descriptions of Sir Charles Bell, from whom he took a class during his aborted medical student days. Darwin rejected Bell’s theorizing that expressions were given by God only to man. In the margin of his copy of Bell’s book Darwin wrote, ‘he never looked at a monkey’. Darwin’s other important source was the French neurologist Duchenne de Boulogne, many of whose photographs Darwin printed, with permission, in Expression. When Darwin wrote to Duchenne asking him what he should pay for the right to reproduce some of his photographs, Duchenne wrote back that between men of science there should be no financial transactions. Amazingly Darwin’s publisher omitted three of Duchenne’s photographs that Darwin discussed at length in Expression, presumably because it was too costly to print all the images Darwin analysed. Those photographs never appeared in any subsequent edition of Expression, until the recent third edition.

“Darwin said that he differed from other men in ‘ … noticing things which easily escape attention, and in observing them carefully’. His keen observational skills were applied to more different data sources than anyone before or since has included in an article or book about emotion: infants (his own), children (likewise), adults, animals in the zoo, the mentally ill and reports he obtained from many people he wrote to or who wrote to him about what they had observed in other cultures.

“Another methodological contribution was Darwin’s focus not just on changes in appearance but the musculature that generated those changes. Although he made a few mistakes on the anatomy, he was certainly on the right path by describing the anatomy of each expression. That path was not followed in most of the twentieth century when scientists instead described expressions in terms that mixed inference about underlying state with description (e.g. smile, frown) and were imprecise to boot. Another mistaken path was to describe changes in the appearance of the features or wrinkles without considering what muscular actions produced those changes …

“Another of Darwin’s methodological contributions was to show photographs of facial expressions to observers and note what emotions they attributed to each expression. This is still the most widely and easily used method for studying facial expression, referred to currently as a judgement study” (Ekman).

“Darwin opens the book with three chapters on ‘the general principles of expression’, introducing the rather Lamarckist phrase serviceable associated habits. With this phrase, Darwin seeks to describe the initially voluntary actions which come together to constitute the complex expressions of emotion. He then invokes a principle of antithesis, through which opposite states of mind induce directly opposing movements. Finally, he discusses a direct action of the nervous system, in which an overflow of emotion is widely discharged, producing more generalised emotional expression. This is followed by a section (three more chapters) on modes of emotional expression peculiar to particular species, including man. He then moves on to the main argument with his characteristic approach of astonishingly widespread and detailed observations. Chapter 7 discusses ‘low spirits’, including anxiety, grief, dejection and despair; and the contrasting Chapter 8 ‘high spirits’ with joy, love, tender feelings and devotion. In his discussion of ‘low spirits’, Darwin writes: ‘After the mind has suffered an acute paroxysm of grief, and the cause still continues, we fall into a state of low spirits, or we may be utterly cast down and dejected. Prolonged bodily pain, if not amounting to an agony, generally leads to the same state of mind. If we expect to suffer, we are anxious; if we have no hope of relief, we despair.’ Subsequent chapters include considerations of ‘reflection and meditation’ (associated with ‘ill-temper’, sulkiness and determination), Chapter 10 on hatred and anger, Chapter 11 on ‘disdain, contempt, disgust, guilt, pride, helplessness, patience and affirmation’ and Chapter 12 on ‘surprise, astonishment, fear and horror’. In his discussion of the emotion of disgust, Darwin notes its close links to the sense of smell, and conjectures an association with excretory products. In Chapter 13, Darwin discusses complex emotional states including self-attention, shame, shyness, modesty and blushing. Darwin describes blushing as ‘the most peculiar and most human of the expressions’. Darwin closes the book with Chapter 14 in which he recapitulates his main argument: he shows how human emotions link mental states with bodily movement, and are genetically determined, deriving from purposeful animal actions. He comments on the implications of the book: a single origin for the entire human species, with universal human expressions; and he stresses the social value of expression, citing the emotional communication between mother and child” (Wikipedia).

Freeman 1141; Garrison- Morton 4975; Norman 600. Ekman, ‘Darwin’s contributions to our understanding of emotional expressions,’ Philosophical Transactions, Series B (Biological Science) 364 (2009), pp. 3449-3451.

8vo (188 x 125 mm), pp. vi, 374, [4, publisher’s catalogue], with seven heliotype plates by O.G. Rejlander (3 folding), numerous illustrations in text. Original publisher’s cloth (very light wear to extremeties).

Item #5609

Price: $4,250.00