Margin notes, comments and scribbles from naturalist Charles Darwin on the pages of his own personal library have been made available online.
Darwin’s personal scientific book collection, the majority of which is at Cambridge University Library, has been digitised in a joint effort between Cambridge, the American Museum of Natural History, the Natural History Museum and the Biodiversity Heritage Library.
According to Anne Jarvis, university librarian, Darwin’s library comprises 1480 books, of which 730 contain abundant research notes in their margins.
These annotated books are now in the process of being digitised, with 330 of the most heavily annotated books launched online at the Biodiversity Heritage Library for all to read.
Ms Jarvis said, ‘The Darwin collections are among the most important and popular held within Cambridge University Library. While there has been much focus on his manuscripts and correspondence, his library hasn’t always received the attention it deserves — for it is as he engaged with the ideas and theories of others that his own thinking evolved’.
Because Darwin’s theory covered so many aspects of nature, reading served him as a primary source of evidence and ideas. He once complained that he had become a ‘machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts’.
The series of transcriptions accompanying each page allows everyone to see which passages Darwin found relevant to his work, stimulated his thinking, or just annoyed him as he read the work of others.
To view the manuscripts, visit: www.biodiversitylibrary.org/collection/darwinlibrary