Unveiling the Complete Library of Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin, the renowned figure in the world of science, amassed a significant collection of books over his lifetime. Surprisingly, up until now, 85% of the items in his personal library remained unknown or unpublished.
In honor of Darwin’s 215th birthday this year, The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online, spearheaded by Dr. John van Wyhe at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Department of Biological Sciences, has launched a comprehensive 300-page catalog showcasing Darwin’s entire personal library. This catalog includes 7,400 titles spanning across 13,000 volumes and items, encompassing books, pamphlets, and journals.
While previous listings only covered 15% of his complete collection, the virtual reassembly of Darwin’s library now includes 9,300 links to freely accessible online copies of the works. This in-depth insight into Darwin’s library portrays him not as a solitary scholar but as someone who drew upon the knowledge and advancements of numerous individuals during his time.
Revealing Darwin’s Extensive Collection
Following his passing in 1882, many of Darwin’s books were preserved and documented; however, numerous other items were scattered or lost, with details about the majority of his collection remaining undisclosed until now. Over the past 18 years, the Darwin Online project has diligently unearthed obscure references in Darwin’s catalogs and lists, leading to the discovery of thousands of previously unknown items that were part of his library.
By painstakingly comparing entries in the 426-page handwritten “Catalogue of the Library of Charles Darwin” compiled in 1875, researchers identified 440 previously unidentified titles from the original collection. Additionally, an inventory conducted posthumously at his home counted 2,065 bound books, along with various unbound volumes and pamphlets.
Interestingly, the legacy duty valuer estimated the worth of the “Scientific Library” at a mere 30 pounds and 12 shillings during the valuation, which amounts to about £2,000 in today’s currency. This valuation sheds light on the humble estimation of Darwin’s vast collection of scientific literature.
By delving into the depths of Darwin’s personal library, researchers have unveiled a treasure trove of knowledge that reflects his dedication to exploring the works of his contemporaries. The detailed catalog provides a unique perspective on Darwin’s intellectual pursuits and the expansive breadth of his research endeavors.