Types of Manuscripts

Thematically organizing Darwin's papers.

The Darwin Manuscripts Project is an edition of all Charles Darwin's Scientific Manuscripts. The edition is organized thematically to reflect Darwin's scientific interests and his research practices. The following diagram shows our interpretation of the overarching organization of Darwin's work and of his archive. Themes not bolded are planned for the future.

There are many genres of scientific manuscript, each with its own textual patterns:

  • Notebooks (experimental, field, reading, theoretical).
  • Portfolios of accumulated loose notes written by CD over time and sorted by him for use in writing books. CD used the portfolio system for most of his books, at least from the Origin onward.
  • Marginalia and Abstracts. These together with Reading Notebooks comprise the principal record of CD's reading.
  • Drafts for articles or chapters, includes revised drafts & fair copies.
  • Letters are often scientific. Indeed, they were often cut up and distributed as topical to the portfolios. The Darwin Correspondence Project has been publishing the letters brilliantly for many decades. Rather than republish these documents, we work collaboratively and make cross links where possible.


Union Manuscripts Catalogue

80,000 items in 13 libraries are catalogued.

Subject Catalogues

Unique & comprehensive access to the manuscripts that deal with Darwin's most characteristic topics. Current topics include: Beagle, Botany, Humans, and Pigeons. Importance: manuscripts on a given topic in the physical archive are often found in widely dispersed clumps. Subject Catalogues integrate the digital archive so that all the pertinent manuscript holdings, as well the relevant annotated books in Charles Darwin's Library can be easily surveyed and accessed. Darwin collections of specimen are also included, where they are digitally available.

Darwin Publications

Quick access to Darwin's most important publications. Only editions that have a direct relation to the production of Darwin's manuscripts are included. Typically, these will be British first editions. The list is parsimonious, but the content is rich, and requires no wading through long lists of editions published in many languages.