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Gould, Stephen Jay. Wonderful Life

The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

  • First UK edition in the oversized jacket proof, from the Harvard office library of the author, with his posthumous bookplate. Wonderful Life was originally published in the US in 1989.

    Author Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) was the prominent Harvard zoologist and palaeontologist who developed the theory of punctuated equilibria, which states that evolution occurs in rapid bursts of speciation separated by long periods of stasis. This radical, and still controversial, concept upended the received wisdom that evolution is the slow, constant accumulation of genetic changes.

    But he was best known to the general public as the beloved author of popular essays and science books. Wonderful Life, which uses the early life forms of the Cambrian period (found as fossils in Canada’s Burgess Shale formation) to explore the role of contingency in evolution, was a New York Times best-seller and winner of the Royal Society’s Rhône-Poulenc Prize, which annually recognises an outstanding work of popular science. This copy was part of Gould’s office library at his death, and includes a publisher’s proof of the jacket design. The jacket bears vertical creases, probably because it was folded to be posted to the author.

  • London: Hutchinson Radius, 1990.

    Octavo. Original blue boards, titles to spine gilt, blue endpapers. With the proof dust jacket. Frontispiece and illustrations throughout. Gould’s posthumous bookplate. An excellent copy in the stiff card proof jacket with a vertical crease each to the upper panel, lower panel, and front flap.

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