Darwin Manuscripts Evolve From Paper Notes to Online Archive

The manuscripts that later became On The Origin of Species are going online for the first time. The good guys at the Cambridge University library, who were the only people with access beforehand, have put Charles Darwin's notes on his book and another 20,000 archive items online, turning it into one vast educational/scientific resource. Apparently it's actually so vast that if you downloaded one image a minute, it'd take you two months to view it all.

The hosting site, Darwin Online, went live 18 months ago, but largely held just the final product publications of Darwin's lifelong research interests. With the addition of the new material, people will now be able to read his notes, his notes on reference reading he'd done, interesting press clippings he kept and private communications with others.

There're some gems in there too: his first scribblings doubting the "stability" of the species, made on his voyage aboard Beagle; his first pencil outline of the species theory, all 61 pages of it (about half crossed-out as his writing progressed). There's even a memo written by his wife Emma, concerned about Charles' religious doubts.

Apparently the archive, stored as images of the texts, will be most useful to Darwin scholars, due to his notoriously scribbly handwriting. But if you're into cooking, then there's also some recipes for muffin pudding and other dishes from Emma, and instructions on how to boil rice from Charles himself. [Darwin Online, New Scientist and BBC News]

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