RECORD: Darwin, C. R. [Edinburgh diary for 1826]. CUL-DAR129.- Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe 13.8.2009, corrections by Kees Rookmaaker and Gordon Chancellor 8.2009. RN3
NOTE: This 120 X 80 mm notebook is bound in red leather with a fold-over flap secured by a leather loop on the opposite cover. A collapsing pocket inside the cover is empty. A pencil holding sleeve inside the flap is also empty. The end pages are marbled. The pages have gold painted edges. All the entries are written in varying shades of brown ink. The first forty-one numbered pages contain only printed matter. Apart from his dated signature at the front of the notebook, Darwin's first entry is for 18 January 1826. Sixty-two diary pages are blank.
This is possibly Darwin's earliest surviving notebook on field observations, recording primarily marine invertebrates and the behaviour of birds. The entries total c. 1400 words.
750 words of this transcription were reproduced, without acknowledgement, in J. F. Derry ed., Darwin in Scotland: Edinburgh, evolution and enlightenment. Whittles Publishing, pp. 111-115, 118-120.
Editorial symbols used in the transcription:
[some text] 'some text' is an editorial insertion
[some text] 'some text' is the conjectured reading of an ambiguous word or passage
[some text] 'some text' is a description of a word or passage that cannot be transcribed
< > word(s) destroyed
<some text> 'some text' is a description of a destroyed word or passage
Text in small red font is a hyperlink or notes added by the editors.
Reproduced with the permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library and William Huxley Darwin.
Colour images of the notebook are not available. However, virtually identical to Darwin's 1826 notebook is an 1834 notebook in the collection of van Wyhe. Photographs of its covers are provided below. (The 1834 notebook was on display in Darwin's Christ's College rooms in 2009.) Darwin's notebook is considerably more battered and stained.
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Shortcut to Darwin's first entry: on 18 January 1826]
Jan 1st 1826.-
The Edinburgh Ladies & Gentlemans Pocket Souvenir for 1826.
Published by A. W. Mc.Lean
Saw a Hedge Sparrow late in the Evening. creep into a hole in a tree; where do most birds roost in winter?
Yellow & grey Wagtail, Diagnosis consists in the former having black legs & in being more brilliantly coloured.—
Caught a sea mouse. Aphrodita Aculeata of Linneaus;1 length about three or four inches; when its mouth was touched it tried to coil itself in a ball, but was very inert; Turton2 states it has only two feelers, does not Linneaus say 4? I thought I perceived them.— found also 3 Paletta Vulgaris & Solen Siliqua
2 Turton 1807. A copy survives in the Darwin Library CUL which is signed 'Charles Darwin 1826'.
Erasmus caught a Cuttle fish it had a bill like a Parrots & near it a bag of of black coloured fluid: is the little fish which
emits when pursued renders turbid in water an English species? yes
Is it the Sepia Loligo? Yes now the Loligo sagitalla
Caught an orange coloured globular (Zoophite?) was fixed to a rock & when kept in a bason would turn itself inside out & when touched retracted itself in again; much in the same way as a glove is turned inside out; put it in spirits:
Bought a Ptarmigan
In the pools of water left by the sea there were a great many roundish-conical Actenia? of a bright red colour firmly fixed to the rocks; when kept on a plate they turned themselves inside out & could entirely change the shape of their bodies
Are they the Actinia crassicornis or mesembryanthemum.
The shore was literally covered with little fish, when touched they emitted a dark coloured fluid & I think eve on seeing any body coming their process of swimming is extremely curious. they first inflate themselves with water & then fixing their tentacula on the sand. at this same slightly bending their bodies send forth the water to distance of three or four feet with considerable noise. & it seems by the reaction that they first put themselves in motion. they thus proceed
with considerable rapidity. their tail being the only part exposed.— they swim tail foremost & N.B. This is very uncommon suspension think it some event among the fishes
Saw three Snow Buntings shot. they were flying in small flocks about tech shore. one of them a great deal whiter & more beautiful than the rest is this the Cock or Hen?
Found a common star fish with only three arms. the other two having been torn off. two new ones half an inch long were just beginning to grow. —
Caught a very large Sea mouse
Size 5 1/2 inches. are no uncommon on the shore between Leith & Portobello.
A great many Sea mice on the shore. when thrown into the sea rolled themselves up like hedgehogs.
Found on the Leith shore a yellowish globular mass called a sea Wash ball
Ellis states it to be the nidus for young Whelk or rather Buccineer
Ellis Corallines, P 841
1 Ellis 1755.
Found a star fish spawning also found an animal nearly three feet long, of a green colour with numerous feet on each side. it could push out a proboscis an inch long. at the end of which there were two little dots. like eyes. when dead was so tender that could not bear to be lifted up.— Nereis Tricolor??1
1 A leach.
Found a bed of soft rocks full of cylindrical hole. half an inch deep in each of which was a Pholas Candida1 remember seeing in Turton Conch. Dic2 that these Animal which inhabits these shells can emit a phosphorescent fluid which acts on the rocks.—
1 A clam.
2 Turton 1819.
Saw a large wasp. I suppose the queen.—
Partridges seemed to be pairing were very noisy &
running flying after each other
Johnson1 saw a cockchafer The Balsam Popular is nearly in full leaf
1 Henry Johnson (1802/3-1881), a fellow pupil at Shrewsbury School who also studied medicine at Edinburgh. He received his M.D. in 1829 and practiced in Shrewsbury.
The Rock in which I some time ago found the Pholas Candida embedded is not a carbonate.— Turton state that they act on the rock by the means of Phosphoric acid — The rock is not Calcareous, but seems very soft.—
Hedge Sparrow was singing & making that peculiar motion with its wings. — they seemed to be paired.—
Heard a lark crying out 20' past 7 oclock & three bats at 1/2 8 oclock saw a humble bee
Heard Kitty Wren singing
Saw large flock of Wheatears on Arthurs seat.—
Saw two yellow water Wagtails or rather grey??
The Nails of the white owl are set at rt ∠s to the toes so that their grasp must be exceeding firm.— their ears also are very capacious & evidently can be closed at the will of the bird by an overlapping skin.—
Saw also a red-throated diver the legs are plainly placed on its back. that is to say when held by the beak perpendicularly their origin was behind the tail—
No swallows or rather the genus Hirundo have appeared in or near Edinburgh
Saw Chimney swallows 90 miles South & redstart. also saw a great many Water Ouzels their flight is much similar to a Kingfisher but more undulating.—
Chimney Swallows. Martens. Sand Martens. Willow Wrens are now pretty plentiful. & Sandpipers at Shrewsbury.—
Susan1 heard a Cuckoo
I believe I saw a swift late in the Evening but am not sure.
1 Susan Elizabeth Darwin (1803-1866), Darwin's sister, who lived at the Mount until her death.
Heard several Cuckoos.
Swifts seen to have come altogether last night or the night before.
Blackcaps seem to be very plentiful
A Corncrake was shot & given to me.— Creepers have young ones.
Very few Sand marten have appeared
Swifts seem to be very plentiful
Kitty Wrens have eggs.—
Saw a flycatcher
Killed a Red-backed Shrike.—
N.B. the White throat is a very common bird. with brilliant patch of white on its throat. rather a long tail. sings on the wing.— Lark night jar has white spot on the outermost tail feather
The Tit lark early in the Spring rises in the air & falls like as bit of paper. The stone-chat seems to be scarcer. saw a couple with yet black heads & bright red breasts are much more common in water
23rd.— saw two more shrikes & found near the place 2 bees & beetle impaled
remember having seen last year two other fields distant. the same thing. Price1 states he has found a young bird in the same state.—
1 John Price (1803-1887) fellow pupil at Shrewsbury School, 1818-1822, and later a friend of Darwin's at Cambridge.
Without doubt Cocks & Hens feed their young. Caught one of them whilst the other came. in this instance Parus Major
Flycatchers do not seem to be at all plentiful.—
July.— seem to me much more so.—
Caught the Lacerta Agilis1 with several eggs in its body.
also common horse Leech.—
1 Sand lizard.
Shot a bird with bright red breast & crown of head.
Sennet or Redpole?
Saw several Butcher Birds hawking for bees &c much in the same manner as flycatchers do.—
Shot a cormorant & in it there were several worms. I suppose of course the Ascaris carbonis.— the capacity of the stomach was very great. there being four sole about half a foot long in it. these birds evidently "ducked the flash."1 —
Our field was cut.
1 A shooting expression meaning evaded the shot.
Found young partridges which had only been born a few days
Found the Rana Rubeta or natter jack. easily distinguished from the toad by its leaping instead of walking?? in its stomach were the boney wings of some Coleoptera Insects; & I think a Bee. it was in spawn. that is to say it had some black jelly like looking substance spotted with white in its stomach. — Head peculiar more like a Nights Jar in miniature, which there Kitty Wren makes.—
Green hornets keep very quiet until about this time when they now being to show themselves.
Water Hen makes a sound like a young Hawk. Chicks. Chick being every [where] & then interrupted
One of the redpoles makes a noise like a pewit only of course very piano & much gentler
I saw the Nuthatch bury nuts in a chink then breaking them
7. & 1/2 brace of partridges & Hare
6 & 1/2
2 & 1/2
Mushroom & all sorts of fungus are particularly plentiful this year.
4 & Hare
Lady-cows are also very numerous
Saw as I believe a young Cuckoo ∴ Do the young Cuckoos always remain so late?
Shot the Sternus after a very windy night
3 & 1/2 & Hare
Observed the larger Titmouse picking the berry from a yew tree & breaking them like a Nuthatch
Saw Grey Wagtail & Water Ouzel under Braid Hills
A remarkably foggy day. So much so that the trees condensed the vapour & caused it to fall like large drops of rain
Saw a hooded Crow feeding with some rooks. by the sea shore. near Leith.
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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
File last updated 2 July, 2012