Bookend Commentary on Evolution

28 Nov

Here are two pairs of bookends referring to biological evolution.

Photo of Essays on Evolution Bookends

“Essays on Evolution” Bookends

Origin of the Species Bookends

“Origin of the Species by Darwin” Bookends

The first pair is an ape, apparently a chimpanzee, holding an open book on his lap.  The book is marked “Essays on Evolution.”  The ape has a wistful expression on his face, presumably because he has been left behind in evolution’s race.  The bookends are iron, backstamped “Pat. Appld For, Chicago Howe Foundry,” and are 6.5 inches high.

These bookends were probably produced around the time of the Scopes “monkey trial” in 1925.  In this Tennessee trial, a high school teacher named John Scopes was convicted of teaching that humans evolved from a lower life form, and the trial received worldwide publicity.  It was a suitable subject for bookend commentary.

The second and earlier pair shows a hairless, ugly ape,  presumably the progenitor of man, holding an open book on his lap.  The book is marked “Origin of Species by Darwin”.  The ape sits on a pedestal composed of three books.  The top book is marked History.  The middle book is marked New Testament, and the lowest book is marked Old Testament.  The rear aspects of the bookends show apes on the ground and in a tree.  The bookends are electroformed bronze, 7.5 inches tall, and marked KBW and Art Bronz for the Kathodian Bronze Works.  This pair would have been produced between 1900 and 1916.  It could have graced the bookcase of an early anthropologist – perhaps someone at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Darwin published his epoch-making book entitled The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859.  At that time, the public split into adversarial groups.  Most people found Darwin’s contention that humans evolved slowly from simpler ape-like animals to be impossible and blasphemous because The Bible told that God created man on a certain day.  A minority of people accepted Darwin’s proposal.  The same kinds of adversarial groups exist today, 150 years later.  However, we hope the deniers of evolution are now in the minority.

The bookends certainly refer to Evolution, but we cannot tell whether the bookends ridicule Darwin or his opponents, then or now.  Either side can enjoy these remarkable bookends.

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Posted by on November 28, 2012 in Animals, Literary, Victorian


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