Origin is 157 years old. (Probably) the most famous book in science was published on 24 November 1859. To celebrate we have uploaded hundreds of new images of letters, bringing the total number you can look at here to over 9000 representing more than 2000 letters, written both before and after the book appeared. You can now see examples of letters to Darwin from nearly 250 different people, and letters he wrote to 150 more.
From a quiet rural existence at Down in Kent, filled with steady work on his ‘big book’ on the transmutation of species, Darwin was jolted into action in 1858 by the arrival of an unexpected letter (no longer extant) from Alfred Russel Wallace outlining a remarkably similar mechanism for species change. This letter led to the first announcement of Darwin’s and Wallace’s respective theories of organic change at the Linnean Society of London in July 1858 and prompted the composition and publication, in November 1859, of Darwin’s major treatise On the origin of species by means of natural selection.
For all his working life, Darwin used letters as a way both of discussing ideas and gathering the ‘great quantities of facts’ that he used in developing and supporting his theories. They form a fascinating collection from many hundreds of correspondents, containing diagrams and drawings, personal observations, photographs, and even specimens.
Charles and Emma Darwin’s eldest daughter, Annie, died at the age of ten in 1851. Emma was heavily pregnant with their fifth son, Horace, at the time and could not go with Charles when he took Annie to Malvern to consult the hydrotherapist, Dr Gully. Darwin wrote a memorial of his daughter just one week after her death, and Emma Darwin kept a poignant set of notes about the reaction to her death of Annie’s younger sister, Henrietta.
Read and search the full texts of more than 8,500 of Charles Darwin’s letters, and ﬁnd information on 6,500 more. Discover complete transcripts of all known letters Darwin wrote and received up to the year 1871.