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
Erasmus Darwin by William John Coffee
This bust is a copy of an original by William John Coffee (1774-1846) which is on display at Derby Museum & Art Gallery.
Coffee was internationally renowned as an English artist and sculptor who worked in porcelain, plaster and terra cotta and he frequently exhibited at the Royal Academy. He occasionally worked in oil paint but this was not how he became famous. His early career started in Derby where he worked for William Duesbury. Coffee emigrated to America in 1816 and lived in New York where he became famous as a sculptor for such historical figures as James Maddison and Thomas Jefferson.
During his time in Derby, Coffee made busts of some of the local dignitaries and historic figures including a life size stone bust of Erasmus Darwin c. 1975. Our copy of this bust is on display in the library.