What is on this site?

This site is the work of the Darwin Correspondence Project.  It contains basic descriptions of more than 15,000 letters known to have been written by or to Charles Darwin, and the complete texts of around half of those.  More details on the specific information to be found about each letter are below.

Most of the letter texts have been taken from our print edition of The Correspondence of Charles Darwin and are being added to this site by agreement with our publisher, Cambridge University Press, four years after publication; these letters appear complete with editorial notes.   The print edition is in progress and will be completed in 2022.

A number of transcriptions are being added to this site ahead of print publication – these are letters we have identified as being particularly interesting or  important, or relevant to the various themes and educational resources that you will also find on this site.

Letter entry pages


Displays details of a single letter, including a transcription if available.

Example

Darwin, E. C. to Darwin, C. R., 15 [Jan 1837] (click link to view entry)

Contains

Historical material:
Letter transcription
The letter transcriptions are from the Correspondence of Charles Darwin (Cambridge University Press,1985). The series, which publishes the lettersin chronological order, is due to be completed in 2022. By agreement with CUP, letter transcriptions are added to the database four years after hard-copy publication. The transcriptions are made and proofread using the original letters when those are available to the Project’s staff. Otherwise, they are made from photocopies, photographs, earlier copies or prior publications. The Project occasionally publishes transcriptions online in advance of the printed volumes in order to illustrate educational or contextual material made available online by the Project, such as the Darwin and religion area of the website.
Illustrations or other figures from the letter
Some letters include illustrations or other figures, such as financial tables or mathematical calculations. Depending upon the nature of the figure, and upon when the letter containing it was transcribed by the Project, it may be provided in theCorrespondence of Charles Darwin by way of a monochrome photograph made from the original letter or by a text-based representation. In the former case, it has been the Project’s practice to replace any handwritten annotations to the image with typeset text, and to increase the contrast between dark and light tones for clarity. Within the online database, such figures are normally provided as scans of the relevant pages of the hard-copy publication.
Editorial material:
Letter summary
The Darwin Correspondence Project’s first publication, A Calendar to the Correspondence of Charles Darwin , contained summaries of every known letter to and from Charles Darwin. The online database contains all these letter summaries (also known as calendar summaries by virtue of their having been published in the Calendar),and new summaries are added periodically as the Project discovers previously unknown letters. For letters with transcriptions available online, the summary will be displayed above the transcription. If the letter has no transcription, only the letter’s summary – and other metadata (see below) – will be shown.

Editors’ footnotes
The footnotes first appeared in the published volumes of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin . The footnotes supply references for all persons and publications mentioned, and are used to clarify any obscurepoints.
Metadata:
Author (‘From’)
The author of the letter, where this is given in the letter text or inferred. Clicking on the author’s name should take you to the name register entry page for that correspondent, which should list any aliases they may have. The author’s name is given under From in the metadata list.
Addressee (‘To’)
The intended recipient of the letter, where this is given in them letter text or inferred. If inferred, the addressee’s name will bein square brackets. Clicking on the addressee’s name should take you to the name register entry page for that correspondent, which should list any aliases they may have. The addressee’s name is given under To in the metadata list.
Letter date
The date on which the letter was written, where this is given in the letter text or inferred. Any inferred parts of the date will be shown in square brackets and will normally be footnoted to explain how the inference was made. The letter date is not given in the metadata list, but appears near the top of the page.
Provenance
The provenance is a record of where the item from which the Project made its transcription may be found. For example, the provenance could refer to a physical letter in a library, or to a photograph printed in an auction catalogue. In some cases, an item’s provenance will refer to multiple resources.
Citation details
The way the letter should be cited. Where letters have already been published in the Correspondence of Charles Darwin (print edition), we prefer that users cite thisedition.
Calendar number
In the Darwin Correspondence Project’s first publication, A Calendar to the Correspondence of Charles Darwin , each letter was assigned a “calendar number”. The calendar numbers were originally chronological but in some cases no longer are, where letters have been re-dated (determined to have been written on a different datethan they were previously thought to have been). The calendar numbers are not all strictly numerical. The first edition of the Calendar used numerals alone. The second edition used letter suffixes from a to e to integrate letters into the original sequence. Letters discovered after the second edition of the Calendar are suffixed f,g, etc., as required. The calendar numbers function as unique identifiers for letters.
Physical description
Information about the physical and other miscellaneous properties of the item, including:

  • The language(s) in which it was written, if not English;
  • The physical format of the item, e.g. a postcard;
  • The number of pages the item possesses;
  • The manuscript class, where available. The abbreviations usedinclude:
    Abbreviation Stands for Meaning
    AL Autograph letter Half or more of text in sender’s hand, but not signed
    LS Letter signed by sender Letter typed or in the hand of an amanuensis, signed by the sender
    LS(A) Letter signed by sender, with additions by sender LS with additions or emendations in sender’s hand
    DS Document signed Document printed or written by a person other than theauthor, but signed by the purported author
    (S) Signed by amanuensis Signed with sender’s name by amanuensis

    A full list of physical description abbreviations can be found here.

Other related resources in the database
In the Metadata bar at the left of each letter there may be links to related resources. Such links will be listed as Index Links, Name References or similar. Clicking on theselinks is like searching for the relevant term, and will give you a list of matching results.

Name register entry pages


Displays information about a correspondent or a person, institution or group mentioned in the correspondence.

 

The name register in the online database is extracted from the biographical register of the Calendar to the Correspondence of Charles Darwin . In due course, the Project intends to add to this the biographical registers published in the hard-copy volumes of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin .

Example

Darwin, E. A. (click link to view entry)

Contains

Editorial material:
Summary biography with name(s) and dates
Short biographies of correspondents of Charles Darwin, and of any persons mentioned in the correspondence. Where available, the subject’s full name, profession, and dates of birth and death aregiven, as are any known pseudonyms.
Metadata:
Canonical name
Each person mentioned in the name register is assigned a “canonical name” by the Darwin Correspondence Project. This name may be used to establish the distinct identity of an individual, which can beuseful when, for instance, there are two or more people in the name register with the same name. The canonical name can be used when searching for letters by name.
Bibliographical sources
The sources of information upon which the name register entry is based are referenced here.
Letters by or to subject
Lists of letters by or to the subject for which there exist letter entry pages are linked to from here. If the subject of the name register entry page is not a correspondent, no such links will appear.
Letters mentioning subject
A list of letters mentioning the subject for which there exist letter entry pages is linked to from here. If the subject of the name register entry page is not mentioned by any such letters, no link will appear.
Other related resources in the database
In the Metadata bar at the left of each letter there maybe links to related resources. Such links will be listed asIndex Links, Name References or similar. Clicking on these links is like searching for the relevant term, and will give you a list of matching results.

Bibliography


The online bibliography lists sources (other than Darwin letters) referred to by the Project.

 

Each of the Project’s hard-copy publications contains a bibliography giving sources referred to in that publication. The bibliography in the online database originally listed the sources referred to in the Calendar to the Correspondence of Charles Darwin and in volumes 1 to 12 of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin, and is now being revised to list all sources referred to in the Project’s publications.

Example

Gray, Asa. 1842. (click link to view entry)

Contains

One entry per bibliographical source, giving:
Title and author
The title of the work referenced is provided, as is that of the containing publication when this is appropriate (e.g. for articles published within a scholarly journal). Some referenced works are anonymous, but the writer of the work is given where available.
Publication details
Publisher, location and year of publication, where available and recorded by the Project.
Additional bibliographical details
When a bibliographical source is, for instance, a variant printing, or has some other relevant property not given by the basic bibliographical apparatus, this is noted.

Repository list


Darwin’s surviving letters are now in various locations worldwide. The repository list displays all institutional and individual collections containing letters transcribed by the Darwin Correspondence Project.

 

The online database includes the repository list from A Calendar to the Correspondence of Charles Darwin plus entries added as new collections have come to light.

Example

Bangor (click link to view entry)

Contains

One entry per repository, giving:
  • Abbreviation used to denote repository
  • Name of repository owner or collection
  • Location of repository

Physical description list


This feature is under development