Introduction to Darwin Online
Darwin Online is the largest and most widely consulted edition of the writings of Darwin ever published. More copies of Darwin's works have been downloaded from Darwin Online than have been printed by all publishers of the past 180 years combined. It is probably the most extensive scholarly website devoted to any historical figure.
This website contains over 100,000 pages of searchable text and 214,000 electronic images, at least one exemplar of all known Darwin publications, reproduced to the highest scholarly standards, both as searchable text and electronic images of the originals. The majority of these have been edited and annotated here for the first time with more than 4,800 original editorial notes.
This website also provides the largest collection of Darwin's private papers and manuscripts ever published: c. 20,000 items across c. 100,000 images, thanks primarily to the kind permission of Cambridge University Library. These numbers break down roughly as follows:
16,770 pages of transcribed Darwin manuscripts (8,330 of these were previously published)
59,600 pages of transcribed Darwin publications
76,400 total pages by Darwin (includes different editions and translations of the same works)
34,000 pages by other authers.
Darwin's unpublished letters are the focus of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin project (1985-).
The works reproduced here were lent by helpful institutions and individuals. Some of the books are worth over £100,000 ($200,000), which means that few libraries can afford to collect all of Darwin's works.
The pilot website by John van Wyhe, The writings of Charles Darwin on the web (2002-6), was replaced on 19 October 2006 with the launch of this website. The launch became an international media sensation—reported on television, radio, newspapers, magazines and the internet, reaching an estimated 400 million people. The site was swamped with millions of hits in the first 48 hours, bringing the site down for a short time. Since then the site has been accessed by tens of millions of readers and from every country in the world. Read about the launch of the site here.
All of Darwin's unpublished manuscripts are being scanned, transcribed or both, if reproduction permission can be obtained. All previously published manuscript transcriptions are included (except where reproduction permission could not be obtained). Overall the site provides the world's largest collection of material on and by Darwin- almost all of it online only here.
• The first complete collection of all Darwin's publications. Many have never been reproduced and almost all appear online for the first time, including many newly discovered items. Publications.
• Each text is absolutely complete, nothing is omitted (as so often with online texts) including end pages and publishers' advertizements.
• Both fully formatted electronic text and images of the original document are provided. These can be viewed side-by-side. Example. Darwin's works are also provided in PDF format for downloading and printing.
• The most comprehensive Darwin bibliography ever published (building on the work of R. B. Freeman): the Freeman bibliographical database. See also the bibliography of works cited on Darwin Online which is the first bibliography of the works cited in Darwin's shorter publications.
• The largest collection of Darwin's manuscripts and private papers ever published. Click here. Many never before published transcriptions, such as the Galapagos notebook, Beagle animal notes and his student bills from Christ's College, Cambridge.
• The first and largest union catalogue of Darwin's handwritten manuscripts and private papers ever assembled (based primarily on the Cambridge University Library catalogue by Nick Gill) - but including over twenty cooperative institutions around the world.
• Added value: Supplementary Works relevant to studying and understanding Darwin and his context, such as reviews of his books (the largest collection ever published) or obituaries and recollections of Darwin (again the largest collection ever published).
Darwin Online also contains the most complete list ever published of scientific descriptions of Darwin's Beagle specimens by other scientists.
• New editorial introductions are being written to help readers understand Darwin's work and context. All of Darwin's shorter publications, the majority of his published items, have been edited and annotated here for the first time.
• New items are still being discovered and added to the site as well as further editions and translations when copies of the originals become available. These and other newly added materials are listed on the what's new page — the site is updated almost daily.
• Although Darwin Online is a scholarly resource, jargon and unhelpful abbreviations have been avoided and a major works page provides an accessible overview.
• Audio Darwin: Darwin's works available as free mp3 downloads for the blind, vision impaired and audio book readers.
• The historical works and database are fully searchable. Searches can be limited by name, date, title and so forth, in addition to a powerful battery of advanced search options. See Search and Search help.
• Page counters on every page. Every document in Darwin Online displays its own hit counter, allowing readers to see how often each has been accessed.
• It's completely free of charge! However, funding is still badly needed to keep the project going. See Support.
A virtual bookshelf of Darwin's books. Click on a book to open it.
John van Wyhe