RECORD: Darwin, C. R. [Edinburgh diary for 1826]. CUL-DAR129.- Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe (Darwin Online,

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe 13.8.2009, corrections by Kees Rookmaaker and Gordon Chancellor 8.2009, corrections by Christine Chua 8.2019. RN4

NOTE: See record in the Darwin Online manuscript catalogue, enter its Identifier here.

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.

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 Johnvan 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.


[front cover, not microfilmed]

[end pages: not microfilmed]

[pages i and ii]

[Scroll up to see introductory matter and colour photographs.
Shortcut to Darwin's first entry: on 18 January 1826]

C. Darwin

Jan 1st 1826.-

[page iii New High School (engraving)]

[iv: title page]


The Edinburgh Ladies & Gentlemans Pocket Souvenir for 1826.

Published by A. W. Mc.Lean
Register Street.

[page v: dedication]

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[2-4 January 1826]


[5-7 January 1826]


[9-11 January 1826]


[12-14 January 1826]


[16-18 January 1826]


Saw a Hedge Sparrow late in the Evening. creep into a hole in a tree; where do most birds roost in winter?

[19-21 January 1826]


Yellow & grey Wagtail, Diagnosis consists in the former having black legs & in being more brilliantly coloured.—

[23-25 January 1826]


[26-28 January 1826]


[30 Jan - 1 Feb]


[2-4 Feb 1826]


[6-9 Feb 1826]


[9-11 Feb 1826]


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

1 Linneaus 1761.

2 Turton 1807. A copy survives in the Darwin Library in CUL which is signed 'Charles Darwin 1826'.

[13-15 Feb 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:

[16-18 Feb 1826]


[20-22 Feb 1826]


[23-25 Feb 1826]


Bought a Ptarmigan

[27 Feb - 1 March 1826]


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.

[2-4 March 1826]

The shore was literally covered with Cuttle fish, when touched they emitted a dark coloured fluid & I think even 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

[6-8 March 1826]

with considerable rapidity. their tail being the only part exposed.— they swim tail foremost & N.B. This is very uncommon fishermen think it some event among the fishes


Saw three Snow Buntings shot. they were flying in small flocks about the 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. —

[9-11 March 1826]


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.

[13-15 March 1826]

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.

[16-18 March 1826]


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.

[20-22 March 1826]

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.

[23-25 March 1826]


[27-29 March 1826]


[30 March - 1 April 1826]


Saw a large wasp. I suppose the queen.—


Partridges seemed to be pairing were very noisy & running flying after each other

[3-5 April 1826]

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.

[6-8 April 1826]

The Rock in which I some time ago found the Pholas Candida embedded is not a carbonate.— Turton states 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

[10-12 April 1826]


Heard Kitty Wren singing


Saw large flock of Wheatears on Arthurs seat.—

[13-15 April 1826]


Saw two yellow water Wagtails or rather grey??

[17-19 April 1826]


[20-22 April 1826]


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—

[24-26 April 1826]


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 undulatory.—

[27-29 April 1826]


Chimney Swallows. Martens. Sand Martens. Willow Wrens are now pretty plentiful. & Sandpipers at Shrewsbury.—

[1-3 May 1826]


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.

[4-6 May 1826]


Heard several Cuckoos.

[8-10 May 1826]

Swifts seen to have come altogether last night or the night before.

Blackcaps seem to be very plentiful

[11-13 May 1826]


[15-17 May 1826]

A Corncrake was shot & given to me.— Creepers have young ones.

[18-20 May 1826]


Very few Sand marten have appeared
Swifts seem to be very plentiful


Kitty Wrens have eggs.—


Saw a flycatcher

[22-24 May 1826]

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 jet black heads & bright red breasts are much more common in water

23rd.— saw two more shrikes & found near the place 2 bees & beetle impaled

[25-27 May 1826]


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.

[29-31 May 1826]


Without doubt Cocks & Hens feed their young. Caught one of them whilst the other came. in this instance Parus Major

[1-3 June 1826]


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.

[5-7 June 1826]


[8-10 June 1826]


[12-14 June 1826]


Shot a bird with bright red breast & crown of head.

Sennet or Redpole?

[15-17 June 1826]


Saw several Butcher Birds hawking for bees &c much in the same manner as flycatchers do.—

[19-21 June 1826]


[22-24 June 1826]


[26-28 June 1826]


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.

[29 June - 1 July 1826]


Found young partridges which had only been born a few days

[3-5 July 1826]


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 the Kitty Wren makes.—

[6-8 July 1826]


Green hornets keep very quiet until about this time when they now begin to show themselves.

[10-12 July 1826]

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

[13-15 July 1826]


[17-19 July 1826]


[20-22 July 1826]


[24-26 July 1826]


[27-29 July 1826]


[31 July - 2 August 1826]


[3-5 August 1826]


I saw the Nuthatch bury nuts in a chink then breaking them

[7-9 August 1826]


[10-12 August 1826]


[14-16 August 1826]


[17-19 August 1826]


[21-23 August 1826]


[24-26 August 1826]


[28-30 August 1826]


[31 August - 2 September 1826]


7. & 1/2 brace of partridges & Hare


6 & 1/2

[4-6 September 1826]


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?

[7-9 September 1826]


Shot the Sternus after a very windy night

3 & 1/2 & Hare



[11-13 September 1826]


[14-16 September 1826]


[18-20 September 1826]


[21-23 September 1826]


[25-27 September 1826]


[28-30 September 1826]


[2-4 October 1826]


[5-7 October 1826]


[9-11 October 1826]


[12-14 October 1826]


[16-18 October 1826]


[19-21 October 1826]


[23-25 October 1826]


[26-28 October 1826]


Observed the larger Titmouse picking the berry from a yew tree & breaking them like a Nuthatch

[30 October- 1 November 1826]


[2-4 November 1826]


[6-8 November 1826]


[9-11 November 1826]


[13-15 November 1826]


[16-18 November 1826]


[20-22 November 1826]


[23-25 November 1826]


[27-29 November 1826]


[30 November - 2 December 1826]


[4-6 December 1826]


[7-9 December 1826]


[11-13 December 1826]


[14-16 December 1826]


[18-20 December 1826]


[21-23 December 1826]


Saw Grey Wagtail & Water Ouzel under Braid Hills

[25-27 December 1826]


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.

[28-30 December 1826]

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[back cover, blank not microfilmed]

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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

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