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Fiction or philosophy, profound knowledge or shocking heresy? When "Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation" was published anonymously in 1844, it sparked one of the greatest sensations of the Victorian era. Thousands of readers were spellbound by its startling vision - an account of the world that extended from the formation of the solar system to the spiritual destiny of humanity. The book was banned, it was damned, it was hailed as the gospel for a new age. In this cultural history, James Secord uses the story of "Vestiges" to create a panoramic portrait of life in the early industrial era from the perspective of its readers. We join apprentices in a factory town as they debate the consequences of an evolutionary ancestry. We listen as Prince Albert reads aloud to Queen Victoria from a book that preachers denounced as blasphemy vomited from the mouth of Satan. And we watch as Charles Darwin turns its pages in the flea-ridden British Museum library, fearful for the fate of his own unpublished theory of evolution. Using secret letters, Secord reveals how "Vestiges" was written and how the anonymity of its author was maintained for 40 years. He also takes us behind the scenes to a bustling world of publishers, printers, and booksellers to show how the furor over the book reflected the emerging industrial economy of print.
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"What a thing a book is!": Elizabeth Barrett's celebrated exclamation sets the tone of Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of "Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation", James A Secord's spectacular contribution to the cultural history of reading. On the one hand, this is the story of a book. Published anonymously in 1844, Vestiges, was a "sensation": a book about evolution as "readable as a romance, based on the latest findings of science". On the other hand, Secord is uncovering what he describes as "the role of reading in creating the first mass industrial society": the thousands of encounters with Vestiges that he traces through letters, diaries, newspapers, reviews, journals. Vestiges was the subject of conversation: an apparently mundane observation that Secord turns into an opportunity to consider the place of "conversation about books" in civic life, the shift in ideas about what it means to read, and talk about, books in a society coming to terms with the "outpouring of print". The topic of evolution is crucial to this discussion; in part, Victorian Sensation is an exploration of how evolution becomes and remains so pivotal in public debate as a means of addressing the forms of social and cultural conflict that characterised the Victorian era (class and gender, religion and science are the common themes). It's an era of transformation conjured through Secord's impeccable scholarship and compelling prose: Victorian Sensation is a fascinating, and remarkably readable book. --Vicky LebeauAbout the Author:
James A. Secord is Reader in the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. He is author of, among others, " Controversy in Victorian Geology," editor of the "Chicago edition of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation and Other Evolutionary Writings," and coeditor of "Cultures of Natural History."
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Book Description University Of Chicago Press, 2001. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110226744108
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