Menneskets Afstamning og Parringsvalget [Descent of Man and Selection in relation to sex] was first published in Danish as a series of booklets called Menneskets Oprindelse [Origin of Man] and Parringsvalget [Selection in relation to sex] in 1874-1875. In 1875 it was collected in two volumes under the title Menneskets Afstamning og Parringsvalget [Descent of Man and Selection in relation to sex]. In 1909, the centenary of Darwin's birth, it appeared in a new edition.
Darwin's The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man was translated by the Danish botanist and author of fiction Jens Peter Jacobsen from the English 1st edition. In 1871-73 he published a series of articles in the Danish journal Nyt dansk Maanedsskrift [New Danish Monthly] on Darwin’s books and theories. Among these were Menneskeslægtens Oprindelse [Origin of Man] and Parringsvalget [Selection in relation to sex].
After publishing these articles Jacobsen offered the Danish publishing house Den Gyldendalske Boghandel [Gyldendal’s Bookstore] to translate the Origin of Species (published in Danish in 1871/1872) and Descent of man into Danish. Jacobsen made no comment on the translation of Descent of Man in a preface. The illustrations were not altered from the English edition.
When Menneskets Afstamning was published in 1875 the price was 10 DKK. This was a little more than a week’s salary for an unskilled labourer, so consequently not everyone could afford to purchase a copy. The second edition from 1909 was 10.25 DKK for a hardcover version. Unlike the 1909 second edition of the Danish translation of the Origin no cheap edition of Menneskets Afstamning was offered.
On the 24th of October 1874 the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende [Berlingske Times] carried a review of the first booklets. This review was an appraisal not only of Darwinism as such but moreover the shift from a priori reasoning about the nature of man and man’s place in nature (often related to a philosophical approach), into an empirically founded approach combined with scientific reasoning.
Lars Brøndum and Marie Larsen