Anyone up for Charles Darwin?
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Warning: This post has footnotes. When you find a funny symbol, it's really a footnote.
I set out looking for Charles Darwin's books. I'd heard he was an active reader; pen in hand #, @. It looks like his collection has been kept pretty much intact in two locations.
One group at Cambridge and the other at his country home, Down House.
The entry for Darwin in the rare books collections of Cambridge's Library reads like this:
"Those books, periodicals, and offprints from Charles Darwin's working library, including copies of his own works, which contain his annotations. 18th-19th century NB this collection is held in the Manuscripts Department. His unmarked books are at Down House in Kent.
References and further reading, found this little number:
"Rutherford, H.W. Catalogue of the library of Charles Darwin now in the Botany School, Cambridge. Cambridge, 1908."
This note is here at the U. of Cambridge Library's website:
The catalog referenced is here:
A .pdf of the scanned original here:
I couldn't find a catalog of the books kept at Down House. I did find a footnote* that mentioned an inventory at Down House, but I couldn't find one online. I found a couple references to Darwin owning specific books, Charles Darwin, Geologist, mentions one on page 271, Agassiz's Etudes sur les glaciers. In his published collected works and correspondence, Darwin talks a lot about books he owns, etc.
Reading through the intro of the catalog, some of the Down House books are included, but not all. It sounded like very few, really. It is also unclear if the Rutherford catalog includes all of the books in the collection currently kept in the Cambridge Library's Manuscripts Dept. Another footnote in another article~ helps explain what happened to Darwin's books after he died. It sounds like the Rutherford catalog is the bulk.
AC Seward gives us a lodestar in the introduction : "For the convenience of those engaged in research and as a means of adding to our knowledge of Darwin's scientific life, it seemed desirable to publish a catalogue of the books and pamphlets." Anyways, there's a start for someone to tackle. Enjoy!
Actually, I heard a lecture on Wednesday about how Darwin and his wife were avid readers of Victorian Sensation novels (think Wilkie Collins and after, novels about criminals and illicit sex) and how that might relate to the presentation of Darwin's botanical findings.
Funny how there are some things that science cannot explain, though Darwin explained a lot, I don't think we'll ever get to the bottom of why he liked Victorian Sensation novels AND wrote some of the most significant works of scientific literature...
"Next year, Darwin will be 200, and 2009 will also mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work 'On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.'"
Get in on the celebration!
I'd love to help, and I created an account for Mr. Darwin. Leave a comment on my profile for the password.
lorax, let me know the profile name so I can add him to the group and wiki pages.
Cool. That was going to be my guess, I just didn't want to assume that was the one you'd set up :-). I'll add him to the lists.
I'd been thinking about a Charles Darwin catalogue for Librarything so its good to see others with the same idea. benjclark is right there is currently no on-line version of the Down House inventory. Coincidently the work plan for my day job for next week includes "start work on migrating the stand alone Down House inventory on to the integrated collections management system". This includes not just the books, pamphlets and periodicals but also the furniture, paintings, bottles etc. In terms of CD's library the difficulty may be distinguishing between books owned by CD during his lifetime and those given to Down House since 1929 for other reasons. It may well be that the only way to distinguish these is further physical examination of the books.
The migration to the main English Heritage catalogue will (unfortunately) not immediately give on-line access to the Down House inventory (PTB there are not yet suficently convinced of the virtues of an on-line catalogue). However I should be able to produce from the migrated data an inventory of the books indicating those which we know were owned by CD. As soon as I've done that I will post it to a suitable web site and let you know where it is.
I'm so glad to see that people are working to catalog Darwin's library. As someone who reads Dariniana voraciously, I would be glad to help with this, if this is possible over the web. Please let me know if I can help.
When I visited Downe House a few years ago, I wrote down several of the titles I could see; but I did have reason to wonder if many of them were his own copies. Darwin had a peculiar habit of tearing books apart as he read them (at least the ones that were too large to hold comfortably in one hand); thus, the intact books possibly were display copies.
Just wanted to post an update that after being swamped at work for a few months I've picked this up again.
For those interested I notice that Darwin Online has just published Darwin's wish list for 1856,
That's utterly charming, thank you. I think most of those are already in the catalog I'm working from, which is considerably later than 1856, but if any of them aren't I'm definitely creating a "Books to be certainly read" collection.
I just came across this article on Darwin's personal library:
They've managed to assemble a very nice bibliography of his collection and have made his annotations on each book available.
>16 - Yes, very cool!
Now that a pretty good list is online (at http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/browse/collection/darwinlibrary) we should add the links to the digital copies, I think.
lorax, since you've had the lead on this - would you like assistance getting the links in? Would make a handy flash-mob project, but I don't want to step on your toes!
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