DARWIN, Erasmus. KLUYSKENS, Joseph-François, translator. ~ Zoonomie, ou lois de la vie organique, par Erasme Darwin, docteur en médecine, membre de la Société royale de Londres, auteur du Jardin botanique, de la phytologie, etc. Traduit de l’anglais sur la troisième édition et augmenté d’observations et de notes par Joseph-François Kluyskens, professeur de chirurgie à l’École élémentaire de médecine, et chirurgien en chef des hôpitaux civils de Gand, membre correspondant de la Société de l’École de médecine de Paris, et de plusieurs sociétés savantes. Tome premier [-quatrième]. Ghent: P.F. de Goesin-Verhaeghe, 1810-11.
4 vols, 8vo (205 × 125 mm), pp. , 20, , 19-23, -614, ; , 659, ; xiv, 586; , 570, complete despite mispaginations of prelims in vol. 1, plus 10 plates (including 7 with hand-colouring), additional 7 pp. manuscript table at end of vol. 1. Early dark blue half calf, gilt, green vellum tips. Joints just beginning to crack in places, very minor expert repair. Early manuscript notes to the first two volumes. An excellent set.
First edition in French of Darwin’s Zoonomia (1794-6) translated from the third edition (Johnson, 1801) by a notable Belgian surgeon and medical professor (he had previously chief surgeon to the Dutch armies at the battle of Waterloo).
Darwin described Zoonomia as his medico-philosophical work designed ‘to reduce the facts belonging to animal life into classes, orders, genera and species’ and to outline a physiological synthesis of the ‘laws of organic life’ as a basis for medical practice. Central to his thinking was the sensorium, not concentrated in one location but distributed throughout the body (including the sense organs, nervous structures, and muscles) ‘processing the ‘subtile fluid’, which he called the ‘spirit of animation’ … Drawing on the work of John Locke, David Hartley, David Hume, and Priestley, Zoonomia offered a theory of biological learning which included both mind and body’. It also contained important ideas regarding generation and reproduction. ‘Darwin secularized David Hartley's theological view that habits of this life were carried into afterlife, contending that habits and characteristics developed during the organism’s life were passed on in a natural extension, to the offspring’ (see Maureen McNeil in Oxford DNB)
The first two volumes contain occasional neat manuscript notes (in ink and some pencil), usually correcting or commenting on aspects of the translation. The manuscript table to the first volume is in the same hand. The advertised fifth volume with the translator’s notes and observations never appeared. Rare: despite being well held by medical libraries in Continental Europe we can locate only the Cambridge copy in the UK and no copies in American libraries.