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Providing online access to Charles Darwin’s richly annotated personal library.

Darwin's Library

Latest News (June 2011): This project has now completed and users can access Darwin's Library via the Biodiversity Heritge Library


This project will digitally reconstruct the working library of Charles Darwin, providing researchers and students with an insight into the development of his thinking and theorising. The project will unite Darwin’s transcribed marginalia with scans of the original marked pages and surrogates of other volumes on his shelves, and will display the library within the broader context of the Biodiversity Heritage Library, a major initiative to digitise Natural History literature.

Aims and objectives

The broad aim of the project is to provide online access to a substantial portion of Darwin’s Library, displaying the full texts of his books alongside images and transcriptions of his annotations. In pursuit of this aim, the project intends to: digitise a significant amount of content; ensure sustainable preservation and delivery; enable sophisticated resource discovery; and provide a model for further digitisation of Darwin’s Library or similar projects.

Project methodology

Cambridge University Library will digitise the annotated pages from his library collection; the Darwin Manuscripts Project at the American Museum of Natural History will supply transcriptions of the annotations; and the UK Natural History Museum will digitise other pages and volumes to fill out the collection. Darwin’s Library will be delivered as a special sub-collection of the international Biodiversity Heritage Library, where the books will be discovered alongside other works of 19th Century natural history.

Anticipated outputs and outcomes

The project will develop a digital collection of approximately 300,000 pages, delivered via the Biodiversity Heritage Library. It will develop a methodology and infrastructure that can be applied to a further phase of the project, and will document this and the lessons learned in a white paper. The project expects the collection to be well-used within research and teaching and lead to a greater understanding of the development of Darwin’s thinking and methods.


The project makes use of the Biodiversity Heritage Library’s technical infrastructure and will meet it minimum imaging and metadata requirements

Project Staff

Project Manager
  • Grant Young, Cambridge University Library, Electronic Services and Systems +44 (0)1223 765576, Fax +44 (0)1223 333160
Projet Team

Documents & Multimedia

Start date
1 September 2009
End date
28 February 2010
Funding programme
Digitisation and Content
International Projects
Project website
Lead institutions
Partner institutions