Our Collection

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!

studyThe museum has undergone two refurbishments since its opening in 1999 which have enabled us to better interpret the themes and display the objects. 18th-century furniture sits alongside traditional art and contemporary interactive exhibits. There are many stories to tell in this small house.

gamesOur 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

Darwin’s Coat of Arms and Bookplate

Erasmus Darwin used his family coats of arms as a bookplate. He also painted this on his carriage in 1770 but when Canon Seward saw it he demanded Darwin remove it as he was denouncing his creator so Darwin painted out the motto ‘E Conchis Omnia’ – Everything from Shells.

The bookplate depicts an asymmetrical shield displayed with shells surmounted by a griffin holding a shell with the motto beneath.

Erasmus’s son, Robert Waring Darwin (Charles’s father) also used the bookplate so Charles grew up in a house where all the books had an evolutionary statement.

On loan from the estate of Dr Erasmus Darwin Barlow, this framed print on paper is available to view in our Inventions Room.