Reading was a fundamental tool in Darwin’s scientific practice. He read widely in the scientific literature of natural history, he also copiously annotated many books and articles and he systematically abstracted many of his annotations. Since a big part of his strategy for supporting the theory of evolution relied on his ability to translate the biological problems of his day into evolutionary terms, the documentary record of his Darwin’s reading cuts across the topical structure of the Darwin archive.
Annotated books are principally at Cambridge University Library and the remainder are displayed at Down House.
In 1875, a Catalogue of Darwin’s scientific books at Down House was compiled by Thomas W. Newton (DAR 240).
Serials: Darwin’s library contains a large collection of pamphlets (off prints & reprints) as well as bound and unbound runs of scientific journals.
Systematic notes abstracting the points of interest in numerous scientific books and journals. Darwin used abstracts as a way of annotating literature that, in large part, he did not own. These abstracts are located in DAR 71-75. In addition, Darwin’s many loose reading notes with bibliographic information are found intermingled with his other notes all over the archive.
Darwin compiled several notebooks and lists of books he either intended to read or had in fact read. These will be published on this site as they become available.