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Reviewed by:
  • The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online
  • Jonathan Smith (bio)
The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online , ed. John van Wyhe, 2002–7; University of Cambridge, Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities; 25112007, 10.3366/E1355550208000143

Since the 1959 centennial of On the Origin of Species, an extraordinary array of Charles Darwin's writings have appeared in print. Readers have been given access to vital manuscript sources ranging from Darwin's notebooks and his massive correspondence to his marginalia and the memorial for his beloved daughter, Annie. His published works and major unpublished manuscripts have appeared in a 29-volume set, while a separate collection of his contributions to periodicals has also been issued. Much of this work has been spearheaded by a relatively small collection of scholars and Darwin's descendants: Nora Barlow, Paul Barrett, Frederick Burckhardt, Gavin de Beer, Mario DiGregorio, R. B. Freeman, Sandra Herbert, Richard Keynes, and Sydney Smith. Modern scholarship on Darwin has been [End Page 114]made easier, and in many cases just plain made possible, by their labours.

Future Darwin scholars will feel a comparable debt to project director John van Wyhe and his colleagues for The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online(or simply Darwin Online, as it is called within the site). This mammoth enterprise, launched in October 2006 as a successor to the smaller Writings of Charles Darwin on the Web, is the work of the University of Cambridge's Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, with principal support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Charles Darwin Trust, and additional technical support from Cambridge's Centre for Applied Research in Education Technologies. Historians Jim Secord of Cambridge and Janet Browne of Harvard serve as AHRC principal investigators, and the project is advised by an editorial board that includes prominent Darwin scholars, directors of similar web sites in the history of science, the Keeper of Manuscripts at the Cambridge University Library, and Randal Keynes of the Darwin Trust. Darwin Onlinecontains nothing less (in the words of its homepage) than 'Darwin's complete publications, thousands of handwritten manuscripts and the largest Darwin bibliography and manuscript catalogue ever published', as well as hundreds of supplementary works. Its goal is to provide scholarly digital versions of all of Darwin's writings (excluding the correspondence, which is the purview of the Darwin Correspondence Project, now also with a significant online presence) in a format that was usable, citable, and searchable. In this the site has fully succeeded. It should now become the standard source for Darwin's writings.

From Darwin Online's homepage, a user can access a brief introduction to the site, an overview of its major features, a list of material recently added to the site, a feature called Audio Darwin, a site map, and a user guide. The latter contains information about the site's contents, organisation, navigation, and search tools, as well as technical specifications and protocols. The body of Darwin Onlinehas three main sections: Publications, Manuscripts, and Biography. The Publications section sub-divides Darwin's published work into books and pamphlets, articles, and published manuscripts. Each subdivision contains the relevant works in chronological order, with basic bibliographic information. The publication list is based on a corrected and updated version R. B. Freeman's The Works of Charles Darwin: An Annotated Bibliographical Handlist(2 nded. 1977), the authoritative bibliographic source on Darwin's publications, with each entry identified by its number in Freeman's handlist. Where a [End Page 115]work appears in multiple editions and translations, these are listed separately. The entry on the Origin, for example, includes all six English editions, plus one Danish, five German, and one Russian translation. Clicking on a work's title takes the user to Freeman's bibliographic introduction; where a finch icon appears adjacent to the title, clicking on the icon takes the user to a page containing thumbnail images of all the work's illustrations.

Each individual publication is available in full text in at least one, and generally more than one, of the following forms: Text, Image, Text & Image...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 114-119
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2009
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