London, William and Norgate, 1883,1885. 8vo. 3 uniform volumes partly uncut in the original embossed cloth. Volume 1 being the revised and enlarged third edition, Volume II (in two parts) being the second edition. Miscolouring to extremities, otherwise a fine set. XII, 883, 16 pp.; (2), II, (2), 237, (1), 16 pp.; Pp. VI, (4), 229-682, X, 16.
A collected set of the second edition and much enlarged third edition of this magnum opus of biology, in which Spencer coined the term "survival of the fittest".
"This survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr Darwin has called "natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life"". (Spencer, Herbert. The Principles of Biology, Vol. I, p. 444).
Together with Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley, Herbert Spencer (1820 - 1903) was responsible for the acceptance of the theory of evolution. His greatest and most influential work in this connection was his "The Principles of Biology", which forms the biological part of his grand project for a Synthetic Philosophy, which he worked on from 1862 to 1893. It is on this work that his fame today mainly rests, not least because it was here that he was the first to use the term "survival of the fittest" and due to this work that he greatly helped spread the acceptance of the theory of evolution.
"The Principles of Biology attempted to reconcile the new Darwinian theory of natural selection with the Lamarckian mechanism of acquired characteristics which Spencer had endorsed long before publication of the Origin of the Species. In Spencer's view, while the Darwinian theory could explain most of biological evolution, the Lamarckian mechanism was necessary to explain 'higher' evolution, and especially the social behavior of humanity. Both theories however, instantiated the principle of evolution. In this sense, therefore, it is incorrect to characterize Spencer as a follower of Darwin. Although he coined the phrase 'survival of the fittest', and is often misrepresented as a thinker who merely applied the Darwininan theory to society, he did not aim to generalize Darwin, but rather to show that natural selection could be accommodated within an overarching principle of evolution that Spencer had independently developed. Biological organisms could be shown to progress, both as individuals and as species, from simple, undifferentiated, homogeneity to complex, differentiated, heterogeneity; the Darwinian theory was only of significance in providing a partial explanation for this universally observed tendency" (Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century British Philosophy vol. 2:1055).
"Spencer saw higher forms emerging from a gradual process of adaptation to the environment. The Principles of Biology analyzes the principal mechanisms by which this occurs and relates them to the specialized structures and function of plants and animals." (D.S.B.: XII, 571).
The work was originally issued to subscribers in parts from January 1863 to October 1864 (Vol. I) and January 1865 to March 1867 (Vol. II).