Children's Drawings & Stories

In 2015—the 206th year-since Darwin's birth—the Darwin Manuscripts Project was proud to publish, for the first time ever, the entire 111 item Cambridge University Library collection of drawings and stories by Darwin's young children, and other members of his household. Darwin's young children painted pictures and wrote stories on the back of draft manuscripts of Darwin's books and notes, and therefore a few original copies of his important works survived. 

House by Francis Darwin, verso of Origin Ms p. 555
Reproduced with the permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library and William Huxley Darwin

These drawings and stories were precious to the Darwin family. So it was thanks to the fortunate meeting of the children's play with their father's science that these extremely rare manuscripts of the Origin of Species (4 pages), Origin Portfolios type notes (2 notes), Cirripedia (9 pages), Orchids (1 page) were preserved. Otherwise, these items, precious to scholars, would have most likely been destroyed. Moreover, the four Origin pages are part of the only 45 Origin pages (plus 9 insert slips) that are extant--out of the original c. 600 page draft. The 9 surviving Cirripedia pages (8 fragments and 1 full page) are the sole survivors of that massive work. However, most often the children simply used their father's writing paper—without his writing—to produce their pictures and their tales. We present here the totality of 111 images, which includes 94 images produced by the children and 17 images with drafts or notes in Darwin's handwriting. 

As the companion to the children's artwork, we are also featuring the 54 item collection (including 9 insert slips) of all known surviving manuscript sheets of the draft of the Origin of Species (1859). We originally published this collection in 2009 to mark Darwin's bicentennial and the Origin's sesquicentennial. Four of these Origin sheets have children's drawings on the verso, which presumably accounts for their survival. This collection also includes Darwin's draft titles for what became the Origin of Species.