Charles Darwin: Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The 1942 deposit contains papers relating to Darwin's publications (DAR 1-28); papers concerned with the zoology and geology of the Beagle voyage (DAR 29-42); letters and notes (DAR 43-52); further manuscripts concerning publications, together with much associated correspondence (DAR 53-90); general correspondence (DAR 91-118 and DAR 143-156); notebooks (DAR 119-130); records relating to published papers regarding Darwin and his work (DAR 131-141); a collection of specimen seeds (DAR 142); and a few folios of the On the origin of species manuscript (DAR 157).

The supplementary papers contain Darwin's 'Journal' (DAR 158); further correspondence (DAR 159-184, DAR 198-205, DAR 210 and DAR 211); miscellaneous accessions (DAR 185 and 186); notes and papers relating to publications (DAR 187-197); experiments and notes (DAR 206-209); and manuscripts and proofs of publications (DAR 212 and 213). DAR 214-241 contain the papers of family members and other miscellaneous deposits, including photographs.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882) was the grandson of Erasmus Darwin of Lichfield and Josiah Wedgwood. He entered the University of Edinburgh in 1825 to study medicine, intending to follow his father Robert's career as a doctor. However, Darwin found himself unenthusiastic about his studies, including that of geology, and left Edinburgh without graduating in 1827. Forming the intention of entering the church, Darwin came up to Cambridge in 1828, and though not finding the formal studies any more to his taste than those at Edinburgh, he formed a friendship with the professor of botany, John Stevens Henslow, and began enthusiastically to study the subject. After graduating in 1831, Darwin was recommended by Henslow to Robert Fitzroy, commander of HM Sloop Beagle, as a naturalist to sail on a circumnavigational voyage Fitzroy was planning. Returning from the Beagle voyage in 1836, Darwin enjoyed a publishing success with his volume Journal of researches...during the voyage of HMS Beagle, married his cousin Emma Wedgwood, and moved to the Kent village of Down, where he spent the rest of his life. It was at Down House that Darwin wrote On the origin of species by means of natural selection, 1859, and a series of monographs in botany, entomology and anthropology.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

In 1942 the Pilgrim Trust and the Darwin family gave Cambridge University Library letters and papers collected by Darwin's son Francis for the publishing of two editions of his father's letters in 1887 and 1903. Due to difficulties resulting from wartime conditions, it was only in 1948 that the papers actually arrived in the Library. In 1975 the Library acquired a supplementary collection of Darwin papers hitherto retained by Sir Robin Darwin. Over the years further papers have been acquired by gift from the Darwin family, by other deposits and by purchase.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives.

Other Finding Aids

The 1942 gift is described in a Handlist of Darwin papers at the University Library (Cambridge University Press, 1960). The acquisitions since the 1960 Handlist are listed in a continually revised Supplementary handlist of the papers of Charles Darwin. Copies of both lists are available in the Manuscripts Reading Room, and may also be purchased from the University Library. A complete, modern catalogue of the whole collection is in preparation (2003).

Frederick Burkhardt and Sydney Smith (eds) have produced a Calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821-1882, with supplement (Cambridge, 1994). An on-line calendar of Darwin's correspondence is also available through the Darwin Correspondence Project's web pages ( In addition, the Darwin Correspondence Project, which is based in the Library, is engaged on publishing the complete texts of Darwin's correspondence. Details of these published volumes, as well as other publications of Darwin letters, can be found through the Project's web pages.


New material is added frequently to the collection.

Related Material

Cambridge University Library holds collections of associated manuscripts, notably, the sketch books of Conrad Martens, MS.Add.7983, who sailed with Darwin during part of the Beagle voyage, and the papers of Robert Fitzroy, MS.Add.8853. The Department of Manuscripts also holds Charles Darwin's library collection, which contains many important contemporary works bearing Darwin's annotations.

Family Names