Digital Collections: “All Surviving Drafts, Including Three Rediscovered Pages, of Origin of Species Revealed”
From the National University of Singapore:
On the 164th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s magnum opus, all known surviving pages of the rough draft of Origin of species have been published online.
Three recently rediscovered pages from Darwin’s draft of Origin of Species have been published for the first time together with all the other known surviving pages in a new online edition. These documents are added to Darwin Online, a scholarly portal dedicated to Charles Darwin and helmed by Dr John van Wyhe, at the NUS Department of Biological Sciences.
Previously, about 50 draft pages were known to survive. The new edition includes seven pages not found in previous collections, bringing the total to 59 draft pages. All are now freely available in Darwin Online, the most comprehensive scholarly site on a figure in the history of science. This edition includes unprecedented details about each draft page and its history.
“Draft pages from the Origin of Species are some of the rarest and most sought-after documents in the history of science because the book is arguably the most influential work in the history of science and the original draft was discarded. Only a fraction of the pages was later found and then scattered as gifts to collectors or descendants. Only 11 pages are known to be in private hands,” said Dr van Wyhe.
The draft pages make it possible to see in detail how Darwin originally composed and revised many of his arguments and expressions. The drafts also contain many sentences that were never published, offering fascinating insights into Darwin’s thinking as he composed the book that quite literally changed the world.
Despite Darwin’s difficult-to-read handwriting, all of the drafts in Darwin Online have been transcribed and edited to show where the text appears in the published book so they may be compared.
The surviving drafts total 11,700 words (7.7% of Origin of Species) and contain many sentences that Darwin never published, offering fascinating insights into Darwin’s thinking as he composed the Origin of Species. It is a tantalising question; how differently would the theory of evolution have been perceived if he had published the original version of some of these sentences? For example, Darwin wrote in one crossed-out sentence that “An instinct may almost be called a complex trick.”
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Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.