May 25, 2022

New Online: Cambridge Digital Library Launches Darwin Manuscripts Collection, More than 12,000 Papers Released Online

The Cambridge Digital Library is a part of the Cambridge University Library.

From the Cambridge Digital Library November 2014 Update:

Our November release sees the launch of our Darwin Manuscripts collection, with a selection of papers charting the development of Darwin’s evolutionary theory – from early theoretical reflections made while on board HMS Beagle to the publication of On the Origin of Species. Amongst many highlights are documents of worldwide importance such as the “Transmutation” and “Metaphysical” notebooks of the 1830s and the 1842 “Pencil Sketch” which sees Darwin’s first use of the term “natural selection”.

From the Cambridge U. Library:

In total, Cambridge Digital Library ( is releasing more than 12,000 hi-res images, alongside transcriptions and detailed notes as a result of an international collaboration with the Darwin Manuscript Project, based at the American Museum of Natural History. These papers chart the evolution of Darwin’s journey, from early theoretical reflections while on board HMS Beagle, to the publication of On the Origin of Species – 155 years ago today.

The launch of Darwin’s papers also marks the end of the first phase of funding for Cambridge’s Digital Library, launched to worldwide acclaim in 2011 with the publication of Isaac Newton’s scientific archive. Initial £1.5m funding for the Digital Library was provided by the Polonsky Foundation. Funding for the digitisation and transcription of the Origin papers was provided by the US National Endowment for the Humanities and National Science Foundation.

Cambridge University Library holds almost the entire collection of Darwin’s working scientific papers and the ones being released today are the most important for understanding the development of his evolutionary theory. They are being published simultaneously on the Cambridge Digital Library and Darwin Manuscripts Project websites, with a further release planned for June 2015, covering the notes and drafts of his eight post-Origin books.

None of the Darwin documents available from today have hitherto been digitised to the present high standard of full colour and high resolution, and many have never been transcribed or edited before now.

Also New This Month

  • New feature allowing CDL users to rotate images in the viewer

Last month (October 2014), the Cambridge Digital Library announced the launch of the Japanese Works collection.

Cambridge University Library has extremely important holdings of early Japanese books and this initial selection includes examples of some of the earliest printing, and sumptuously illustrated scrolls.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.