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Darwin Manuscripts : Geological specimen notebooks kept by Charles Darwin on HMS Beagle

Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882

Darwin Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'><p>Four notebooks used by Darwin during the 'Beagle' voyage (1831-1836) in which he listed his geological (rock and fossil) collections. These notebooks were also used after the voyage to record notes regarding the specimens, often after consulting other experts (one such note is dated November 1842 and the inside back cover of 236.4 is dated November 1843). The notebooks have been on deposit at CUL since 1981 (Porter 1985). All four of the DAR 236 notebooks are identical to the six now held by English Heritage at Down House, which Darwin used for living plants and animals as described and transcribed by Keynes (2000). Darwin referred to what is now DAR 236 as his 'Catalogue' in an August 1832 letter to Henslow (CCD1, p.251) or his 'Geological Book' (Keynes 2000, p.343). For a general description of the notebooks see CCD1, p.252, note 3. They have red covers, measure approx. 18cm x 11.5cm. As can be seen (e.g. on <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(324);return false;'>236.4.16v</a>) the paper is watermarked JOHN HALL 1831 (I am grateful to Elizabeth Smith of CUL for supplying images of the watermarks).</p><p>Every page of the notebooks is unruled but has one vertical left margin line. Darwin usually wrote the specimen number in the margin and used the rest of the page for the description of the specimen(s), but he also sometimes added symbols or short annotations in the margin. Occasionally, on pages where space was limited (e.g. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(64);return false;'>236.1.32v</a>) Darwin's description starts in the margin. For readability we have not reproduced this detail in the transcriptions. Neither have we made any attempt to align the entries horizontally on the verso pages with the respective recto pages.</p><p>Gaps in the geological specimen numbers indicate where Darwin has applied those numbers to his 'zoology' specimens, as published by Keynes (2000). In fact, 'zoology' is a misnomer as Darwin simply listed all his living plants and animals (i.e. everything that wasn't geological) as either 'in spirits of wine' or 'not in spirits of wine'. As Herbert (2005) has detailed, Darwin used Fitton (1827) as his guide to collecting in geology. In his 'Journal of Researches' (1839, pp.598-599) he explained his method of collecting and in his 'geology' chapter of 'The Manual of Scientific Enquiry' he recommended the following procedure for what he rather ambiguously called 'ticketting' specimens: "Every single specimen ought to be numbered with a printed number ...and a book kept exclusively for their entry." (Darwin 1849, p.161). To judge from the specimen photographed in Pearn (2009, p.15) bearing a printed number ('49') exactly like Darwin's, but collected by Adam Sedgwick during his field trip in Wales with Darwin in 1831, Darwin copied Sedgwick's method when preparing for the 'Beagle' voyage. What Darwin should have made clearer, we suggest, is that he used temporary numbers in the field and often listed them in his field notebooks. It is actually these 'field numbers' which he says must be given to specimens immediately on collection and that these can be replaced by permanent numbers once back at base or on board ship when the collector has access to pen and ink and his specimen catalogues (in his case DAR 236).</p><p>There are some lists made by Darwin showing both his field numbers and permanent numbers for many specimens he collected in the Andes. These lists are indispensable because they give his 1835 field numbers alongside his final DAR 236 numbers. The most important of these lists are DAR 39.147 which lists 118 rocks from 2598-2716 (with field numbers noted in the St. Fe Notebook) and DAR 39.153-157 which lists 283 rocks from 2850 to 3133 (with field numbers noted in the Coquimbo, Copiapo and Despoblado Notebooks; see Chancellor and van Wyhe 2009). Darwin's notes from his discussions with Miller in DAR 39.68-69 covering rocks from all parts of the voyage are also useful.</p><p>As with the lists transcribed by Keynes, Darwin listed his geological specimens in numerical order on the right-hand (recto) pages and then wrote any notes about the specimens on the facing left-hand (verso) page. The notes are tied to the specimens by the specimen number and sometimes there is more than one note for a particular specimen, indicating that the notes were written at different times, thus disrupting the 'correct' numerical sequence. In order to read DAR 236 as the full continuous list of Darwin's specimens but ignoring the notes it is important ONLY TO READ THE RECTO PAGES.</p><p>DAR 236 is almost all in ink in Darwin's hand except where pencil is noted. The major exception to this are five pages in pencil at the end of 236.4 and other exceptions are the marginal abbreviations L, M, R and H and the symbols v which are usually written in pencil. There are numerous interlineal pencil annotations which are often difficult to decipher. It seems very likely that everything in pencil is of post-voyage date. The symbol x is sometimes in ink and sometimes pencil and sometimes both, depending on whether the corresponding verso note is in ink or pencil. On 236.3.35r there are faint pencil 'x' marks against seven of the specimens listed on that page in addition to the two ink 'x' marks for notes on the left hand verso pages. The meaning of these pencil 'x' is obscure. There are a few instances of ink over pencil (e.g. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(92);return false;'>236.1.46v</a> and the back pages of 236.4). There is a note at the back of 236.1 in Miller's hand relating to specimen 1018 (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(99);return false;'>236.1.50r</a>). AJP's folio numbers have not been transcribed.</p><p>For definition of geological terms see the glossary in Lyell's 'Principles of Geology' (vol.3, 1833) which Darwin had from mid-1834. There are also many instances which show the facility with which Darwin used chemical names. Darwin's spelling, punctuation and capitalisation can be inconsistent (e.g. 'Felspar' for 'feldspar') but so far as possible it is transcribed as seen. At the time of the 'Beagle' voyage 'felspar' was often used in books which were in the ship's library (e.g. Daubeny 1826; Henslow 1822; Jameson 1822; Phillips 1816) and it is spelt 'felspar' in Lyell's glossary ('Principles of Geology', vol.3, 1833), also available on the 'Beagle'. 'Feldspar' was used by some authors available to Darwin (e.g. Aubuisson de Voisins 1819) but 'felspar' was still in use into the 1860s (e.g. Ramsay 1862). Darwin himself seems usually to have used 'felspar' (and its derivatives e.g. 'felspathic') but he did sometimes use 'feldspar' and it is also likely that when he was writing quickly the 'd' was intended but merged with the other letters and became invisible. There is a similar problem with the adjectives 'glassy' and glossy' which both can apply readily to feldspar, so certainty as to which was intended is elusive. Darwin's spelling of 'colour' as 'color' seems to be more consistent throughout the notebooks, although 'colour' seems to occur more often as the voyage nears its end. Darwin quite often used the Spanish reversed question mark but we have silently rendered all question marks as '?'. It is also often impossible to determine whether full stops (.) are punctuation or merely pen rests, so all have been transcribed. For general discussion of Darwin's spelling habits during the voyage see Sulloway (1983).</p><p>Whenever Darwin starts to list specimens from a new locality he names this at the head of the a recto page or occasionally under an ink line drawn across the page which we signify as --------------. He generally states the year in the left margin and sometimes the month on the right, before the locality. Although the month usually tallies with the dates given in his field notebooks (see Chancellor and van Wyhe 2009) occasionally the month is slightly later. This indicates that it represents the month in which he had leisure to list his specimens rather than the month of collection. The range of localities and dates covered in each notebook is as follows: 236.1: January 1832 (Cape Verdes) to January 1834 (Port Desire); 236.2: January 1834 (Port Desire) to June (?) 1835 (Coquimbo); 236.3: June (?) 1835 (Coquimbo) to July 1836 (Ascension); 236.4: July 1836 (Ascension) to September 1836 (Terceira).</p><p>DAR 236 records 2,318 specimens of which approximately 1,750 are rocks and 390 are fossils, although it is sometimes difficult to decide whether a specimen is a rock or a fossil (e.g. a piece of sandstone with leaf impressions might be a rock or a fossil). Harker's 1907 manuscript transcription of DAR 236 (held with Darwin's rock collection at the Sedgwick Museum and available on Darwin Online) is invaluable but it mainly relates to the Museum's rocks collected by Darwin (omitting most of the fossils) so is of limited application. Harker's list was not intended to be comprehensive but should be consulted for its accompanying notes and for its use of more modern names and descriptions of the rocks etc. Lister (2018) should be consulted for the fossils, most of which are in the Natural History Museum (NHM) although there are some plant fossils in the British Geological Survey (BGS) collections in Keyworth (Falcon-Lang 2012).</p><p>Some of Darwin's rocks are also at the BGS: there are 43 specimens from Ascension and, apparently, eight from the Galapagos and one from the Cape Verdes (Ramsay 1862), although not all have Darwin's numbers attached. There are reasons for believing that some of these letter nine specimens were misattributed to Darwin by Ramsey, who quotes co-ordinates for 'Chatham Island, Galapagos' which are those for Chatham Island, near New Zealand! I am grateful to Thalia Grant and Greg Estes for suggesting that at least some of the Galapagos specimens are from the Galapagos but were collected by officers of HMS 'Pandora' when they were surveying there in 1847. I am also very grateful to Louise Neep for sending me the list of Darwin's BGS specimens via Adrian Lister of the NHM.</p><p>There are also a few Darwin rock specimens in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (Chancellor et al. 1988) and since Darwin also sent some specimens to the micropalaeontologist Christian Ehrenberg (1795-1876), see for example Darwin's 'Voyage of the Beagle' (1845, p.494), there may still be some in Berlin. Darwin also sent Alcide d'Orbigny (1802-1857) many fossils for identifications which were cited extensively in Darwin (1846) so it seems likely that they may be at the Paris Natural History Museum, although they have not yet been located, despite searches. There is also one fossil skull at the Royal College of Surgeons (specimen no. 821; see Lister 2018, p.37). Finally, it is almost certain that the whereabouts of a few other specimens has yet to be discovered.</p><p>When searching the entry for a specimen with one of Darwin's attached printed paper numbers it is crucial to note the colour of the paper; white paper signifies 1-999, red 1000-1999, green 2000-2999, yellow 3000-3999. The specimens are distributed as follows: 236.1: specimens 12 to 1675; 236.2: 1677 to 2851; 236.3: 2864 to 3742; 236.4: 3743 to 3914. Since the sequence includes 'zoological' as well as geological specimens, the actual number of geological specimens is 3,914 minus the number of 'zoological'. The number of geological specimens collected on the 'Beagle' is therefore approximately 2,138 distributed across the notebooks thus: 706 specimens in 236.1, 676 in 236.2, 614 in 236.3, 142 in 236.4. In their detailed study of Darwin's Galapagos geology, Herbert et al. (2009, p.7, footnote 11; see also Gibson 2009) state that the Sedgwick Museum holds 1,390 of Darwin's specimens, i.e. 65% of the total of geological specimens listed by Darwin, which must leave c 750 in other institutions or lost.</p><p>There are two lists in Darwin's autograph held by the Sedgwick Museum which relate to DAR 236, although their history is not clear. TN 5578a is a foolscap sheet giving a list of mammal fossils. It includes many important specimens listed in DAR 236.1 but also lists specimens which were numbered separately, probably because Darwin had to ship them home without time to list them properly. TN 5578b is a list of fossil wood specimens, all of which are listed in DAR 236. It is a page from a notebook of exactly the dimensions of DAR 236 and has a matching watermark, so was almost certainly torn from the back of DAR 236.4. I am now working with Dr Adrian Lister of the NHM to publish these two important documents (Chancellor and Lister, in prep.).</p><p>Dr Liz Hide, Director of the Sedgwick Museum, prepared full transcriptions of the notebooks in preparation for the Museum's then new Darwin Bicentenary displays (see Hide 2007). Dr Hide collated Darwin's descriptions with the specimens and thin sections made from them now in the Museum's collections. She has kindly made some of her work available to me for comparison and we are continuing to work together to improve the quality of our transcriptions.</p><p>There is a huge literature on Darwin's activities during the Beagle voyage. For overviews of his geological collecting and research we recommend Armstrong (2004), Chancellor (2012), Chancellor and van Wyhe (2009), Herbert (2005), Lister (2018), Nicholas and Nicholas (1989) and Pearn (2009).</p></p>

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