Darwin's Evolution Papers

The historically most important Darwin scientific manuscripts—and those that our project has edited to date—are  the notes and drafts comprising Darwin’s Evolution Manuscripts, which—to use Darwin's own term, were his papers on the Transmutation of Species. Using these notebooks, marginalia, portfolios, and abstracts, Darwin wrote the nine of his fifteen books that set down, enlarged and defended the theory of evolution by natural selection. For one book, On the Origin of Species, Darwin left an astonishingly rich treasure house of precursor manuscripts. But he also left an abundance of post-Origin documents for his six botanical books and his two books on humans—all of eight which are driven by “evolution”, or to use Darwin’s own terminology: “transmutation of species”, or the “species theory”.

So there are two groups of manuscripts on Evolution:

  •  Manuscripts that show the development of Darwin as an evolutionary theorist, who formulated the major concepts of adaptation by natural selection, speciation and taxonomic divergence, social organization and sexual selection. These encompass a nearly 25 year-long story, which we call Creating the Origin of Species  (1835-1859).
  • Manuscripts leading to the eight applied evolutionary books on Evolutionary Botany and Human Evolution—where Darwin applied rigorous observation and experiment to defend evolution during the two decades after the Origin appeared, which we call Darwin’s Evidence (1837-1882).

Thus the architecture or design of the archive is clear: it follows Darwin’s own organization of his work and is usually linked to the publication of a book or article.