The structure and distribution of coral reefs. London Smith, Elder and Co. 1842
8vo. xii, 214 pp., plus 2 pag With half-title, text woodcuts, 3 folding engraved maps by J. & C. Walker. Recent cloth, new endpapers; maps brittle. From the J.R. Loomis Collection with stamp on title. $12,500.00
First edition of Darwin's observations of reefs and atolls during the voyage of the Beagle. The three parts of Darwin's Geology were published separately over a period of five years, but were intended, and described on their title pages, as parts of one work. This first volume contains Darwin's theory of the formation of coral reefs. He hypothesized that atolls and barrier reefs were formed on gradually sinking land, while fringe reefs appeared on land undergoing elevation -- a theory that, with slight modifications, remains the accepted explanation for this marine phenomenon. The first of the three maps is hand-coloured in this copy (though not called for by Freeman); the second is also colour-coded, showing the distribution of the three sorts of coral reefs and of active volcanos in the Pacific, Indian Ocean, and the Caribbean.