5000 letter images go online

We are collaborating with the Cambridge Digital Library to publish images of 1200 letters exchanged by Darwin with his closest friend, Joseph Dalton Hooker – more than 5000 images in total.  This is the single largest publication of images of Darwin’s letters and 300 of the letters are previously unpublished.


No single set of letters was more important to Darwin than those exchanged with the botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911). Their letters account for around 10% of Darwin’s surviving correspondence and provide a structure within which all the other letters can be explored.  They are a connecting thread that spans forty years of Darwin’s mature working life from 1843 until his death in 1882, and bring into sharp focus every aspect of Darwin’s scientific work throughout that period. They illuminate the mutual friendships he and Hooker shared with other scientists, but they also provide a window of unparalleled intimacy into the personal lives of the two men.


The 300 previously unpublished, cover the last decade of Darwin’s life and give almost day to day detail on the experiments that led to his books on insectivorous plants and plants that move – both crucial evidence of the relatedness of plants and animals (and humans of course). And also to his final and most popular book – on earthworms, published shortly before he died. They cover the death of Hooker’s first wife, Frances, and his remarriage to Hyacinth Symonds. And Darwin’s behind-the-scenes involvement in lobbying parliament to control, but not altogether to ban, vivisection.


Read more about the letters here.

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