Erasmus Darwin House holds a number of objects which belonged to Erasmus and his family, which are on loan from organisations such as Lichfield City Council, Stoke on Trent Potteries Museum, Holburne Museum and English Heritage. His work covered a variety of subjects, from science and inventions to medicine and the education of women, and the collections reflect this, covering topics such as these and more!
Our most prized object is Darwin’s Common Place Book which gives us great insight into the mind of this amazing man. It is a large notebook on loan from English Heritage which contains Darwin’s own notes on his medical cases, his thoughts on such things as meteorology and botany, and some fantastic drawings of his inventions. A group of volunteers have recently completed a demanding project to transcribe the book for our visitors.
‘It was a privilege to transcribe Darwin’s original hand written notes… it felt like he was in the room and speaking the words!
A copy can now be found on the lectern in the Inventions Room which compares Darwin’s original page to a translated page, so now we can better understand his passion for medicine and engineering!
You will also find the Common Place Book as part of the British Museums Teaching History in 100 Objects project which provides resources for teachers who want to use museum objects as a way to interpret history.
Object of the month
Ink Well & Quill Pen
These objects belonged to Erasmus Darwin himself which makes them an especially important part of our collection.
The quill pen is the flight feather from a large bird which would have been treated and cut to enable ink to be drawn up into the shaft when dipped into the ink pot. The best feathers for quills were goose, swan or turkey. Metal tipped ‘dip pens’ became popular in the 19th century as they could be mass produced.
The inkpot is glass and a perfect example of what a writer would have used in the 1700’s. This might have once had a lid to avoid contamination, evaporation or accidental spillage however, during its life this has been lost or broken. Inkwells can be very decorative, made from silver, brass or porcelain but Darwin’s is very simple, a testament to a practical man who wasn’t interested in unnecessary embellishment.