Rare biology book: Spencer, Herbert; Principles of Biology. 2 vols. First edition. Williams & Norgate, London & Edinburgh, 1864-1867.

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Spencer, Herbert; Principles of Biology. 2 vols. First edition. Williams & Norgate, London & Edinburgh, 1864-1867. Quarto, vol. 1 pp. viii, 492, illustrated; vol. 2, pp. viii, 569, 2 pages of ads, illustrated.

The set is complete and in the original purple stamped cloth with gilt spine titles and cover vignettes, spines lightly sun faded, minor rubbing to board edges, bump to lower edge of volume 1 front cover, very minor foxing to first and last text pages, text is uncut. The set is in very good condition.


A British biologist and one of the earliest of ?modern thinkers to attempt a systematic account of all cosmic phenomena,; Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) was known as one of the leading Social Darwinists of the 19th century and helped gain acceptance of the theory of evolution which also became the basis for most of his books and teachings. Spencer declined an offer to attend Cambridge University and instead gained much of his higher education through reading. Spencer's theory of evolution preceded Darwin's own, but was soon overshadowed because of the absence of an effective theory of natural selection - although it was Spencer, and not Darwin, who popularized the term "evolution" itself and coined the now-ubiquitous phrase, "survival of the fittest" which depicted a constant struggle amongst the species. As a result of this continual struggle, the stronger species survived and multiplied while the weaker species perished.. Although no longer influential in biology, his extension of his theory of evolution to psychology and sociology remains important. His "Social Darwinism" was particularly influential on early evolutionary economists such as Thorstein Veblen, but, it was quickly adopted by American's such as William Graham Sumner and Simon Nelson Patten. Spencer was an agnostic who believed that the only way to gain knowledge was through a scientific approach. He felt that religion was a futile attempt to gain knowledge of the unknown. Spencer wanted to replace the theological systems of the Middle Ages with his philosophical system which stated that all knowledge could be placed within the framework of modern science. Science was the only way to gain "useful" knowledge. It was through this "scientific" knowledge that people learned to live in society. Together with Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley, Herbert Spencer was responsible for the acceptance of the theory of evolution.