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Darwin Correspondence Project

3.6 William Darwin, photo 3

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A photograph of Darwin apparently taken outdoors (he is seated on a chair but swathed in a cloak and rug) is undated and undocumented. It exists only as an unprinted collodion positive in the Darwin archive, strongly suggesting that the photograph was taken by one of Darwin’s family. John van Wyhe points out that Darwin’s head and the shape of his beard here look very like those in the head-and-shoulders photograph taken by his son William, which is securely dated to 1864, and it seems likely that this was taken on the same occasion. The collodion process he has used apparently precludes a date later than the 1860s. The photograph’s technical shortcomings, especially the out-of-focus background, may explain why it was never printed or circulated. Moreover, there is an inadvertent impression of helpless invalidism which led Janet Browne to assume that this was one of the last photographs of Darwin. Certainly, through ill health, he looks older than his actual age of about fifty-five. 

  • physical location Darwin archive, Cambridge University Library 

  • accession or collection number DAR 257.3 

  • copyright holder Syndics of Cambridge University Library 

  • originator of image William Darwin 

  • date of creation 1864 

  • computer-readable date 1864-01-01 to 1864-12-31 

  • medium and material collodion positive on a small glass plate, with black varnish on the back 

  • references and bibliography Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (London: Jonathan Cape, 2002), figure facing p. 441. J. van Wyhe, ‘Iconography’, p. 163. 


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