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
Charles Darwin’s letters
Charles wrote letters throughout his entire life and there are more than 15,000 known letters around the world, with more coming to light all the time at a rate of around 50 per year. They are a fascinating insight into the mind of this famous British character and contain drawings, diagrams and personal observations and sometimes even specimens. They were an important way of discussing his theories with friends and colleagues and the content of many of his letters ended up in his publications.
Approximately half of Darwin’s letters are kept in Cambridge with the rest held in public and private collections around the world. The Darwin Correspondence Project is being undertaken by a team of researchers at Cambridge University Library who are faithfully transcribing and publishing Darwin’s letters. There will ultimately be 30 volumes of letters; Erasmus Darwin House currently holds 22 volumes.
More information on the project and Darwin’s letters can be found at www.darwinprojects.ac.uk