Darwin’s kids drew all over the manuscript of “The Origin” and his other works

Before we begin, let’s all recall the title of Darwin’s greatest work, in full: it was called On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, and it was published on November 24, 1859. (Remember the kerfuffle when Richard Dawkins was excoriated for not remembering it in full? Well, it’s a long title, and I doubt many evolutionists could recite it accurately. And it doesn’t matter.)

Well, it turns out that almost all of the original manuscript of what I’ll call “The Origin” is gone, but 45 pages remain—a few of which bear drawings by his children. The Darwin kids also drew all over his notes and his manuscript for his barnacle monograph and his orchid book.  They also drew all over his writing paper.  These pages have been digitized courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History and the Cambridge University Library as part of the Darwin Manuscripts Project.

Note that in her post on these drawings at Brainpickings, Maria Popova got it badly wrong, titling her collection of drawings “The charming doodles Darwin’s children left all over the manuscript of ‘On the Origin of Species’“, adding this:

There is no more endearing a testament to how this balance skews — to both the exuberant happiness that children bring and the benign misery of the innocent waywardness — than the doodles Darwin’s children left on the back-leaves and in the margins of his Origin of Species manuscript draft. . .

Nope. In fact, the vast bulk of what she reproduces came from other manuscripts, notes, and blank paper—something Popova doesn’t mention. She really should have exercised due diligence.

At  the AMNH website you’ll learn how little of the original manuscripts remain; Darwin saved his letters religiously, but book manuscripts weren’t considered sacrosanct. The manuscript of The Origin was probably largely destroyed after it was set in type by publisher John Murray:

Darwin’s young children sometimes painted pictures and wrote stories on the back of draft manuscripts for Darwin’s books & notes. These drawings & stories were precious to the Darwin family. So it was thanks to the fortunate meeting of the children’s play with their father’s science that these extremely rare manuscripts of the Origin of Species (4 pages), Origin Portfolios type notes (2 notes), Cirripedia (9 pages), Orchids (1 page) were preserved. Otherwise, these items, precious to scholars, would have most likely been destroyed. Moreover, the four Origin pages are part of the only 45 Origin pages (plus 9 insert slips) that are extant–out of the original c. 600 page draft. The 9 surviving Cirripedia pages (8 fragments and 1 full page) are the sole survivors of that massive work. However, most often the children simply used their father’s writing paper–without his writing–to produce their pictures and their tales. We present here the totality of 111 images, which includes 94 images produced by the children and 17 images with drafts or notes in Darwin’s handwriting.

Here are three drawings from manuscript pages of The Origin. This one is “aubergine and carrot cavalry” by Francis Darwin (initialed FD).

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-11-36-34-am

Birds and butterfly, probably by Francis Darwin, drawn on back of Origin ms. page:

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-11-37-35-am

Down House (the family home), watercolor by Francis Darwin in an Origin ms page. Is that a dog or a cat in the window?

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Soldiers with turbans on old Darwin notes; artist not identified:

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-11-45-06-am

Horse and carriage, on Darwin’s barnacle monograph; artist not identified: screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-11-46-56-am

The horse “Bright,” artist not identified, drawing not on Darwin ms.:

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-11-50-46-am

And, presciently, a fish with legs; artist unidentified, not on Darwin ms.:

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-11-53-18-am

And here is a rarity: one of the 45 surviving manuscript pages of The Origin (see them all here, along with other information relating to publication). You may remember his famous discussion about how the eye could evolve from a light-sensitive pigment spot:

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-11-57-47-am

 

Translation:
screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-11-58-08-am

 

 

31 Comments

  1. Posted February 12, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    “Well, it turns out that almost none of the original manuscript of what I’ll call “The Origin” is gone, but 45 pages remain—”

    Typo. I think you meant “almost all”.

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    The Darwin offspring appear to have been the forerunners of Fauvism. 🙂

  3. Veroxitatis
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Splendid drawings, showing not only skill but humour. Francis could have had a profitable lifeline as a caricaturist for Punch magazine which had been founded a few years before his birth.

    • Veroxitatis
      Posted February 12, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      “sideline”‘

  4. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Delightful! I had seen the first drawing before, but the others are new to me.

  5. bonetired
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I have to admit that one or two of the pictures, especially the pictures labelled “A fish with legs”, remind of those done by the originator of the Limerick, Edward Lear. Maybe it was just the style of the time.

    See what you think: http://blogs.harvard.edu/houghton/files/2013/05/Bonnet-birds.jpg

  6. Posted February 12, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    What an incredible Dad!

  7. Heather Hastie
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    I think the animal in the window looks like a fox, but is most likely a cat.

    Great pics – Francis shows talemt to my unschooled eye – and a great dad.

    • Posted February 12, 2017 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      I heard from a good authority (PCC on Darwin day a few years ago) that Darwin was a dog man and disliked cats. So I am guessing it is not a cat.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted February 12, 2017 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        I went by the fluffy tail!

        • Posted February 12, 2017 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

          The tail inclines me toward the squirrel theory. Perhaps Darwin, like PCC, fed squirrels from his window.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted February 12, 2017 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

            That would be cool if he did! Or maybe Francis did unbeknownst to his father, and that’s why it’s in the attic. 🙂

  8. Posted February 12, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    It sure looks like a squirrel up in the attic window….very long bushy tail and that’s where squirrels go. And that’s a SEA HORSE head on a REAL HORSE. But I want to know what happened to the letter (in a glass case in the room overlooking the rear) from a local squire to the local clock repairman, who made the error of attending the Westminster Abbey service for Darwin and was spotted by a local Down resident, who told the squire, who then wrote Darwin very haughtily, severing their relationship because of his attendance at the service of a “blasphemer” and heretic. I saw it in 1990, and then when Down House was gentrified, these letters were removed to Cambridge. I discovered this in my return visit ten years later. I was truly disconsolate.It was a marvelous letter.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 12, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      It sure looks like a squirrel up in the attic window….very long bushy tail and that’s where squirrels go.

      My impression too.
      I’m not sure if the grey squirrel had been introduced to Britain at that time (say, 1860 ± handful), but it’s doubtful they’d spread far. But that one is decidedly orange-brown.

  9. Posted February 12, 2017 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    These pictures make me smile. I love getting a glimpse into the real life of such a giant of science.

  10. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    These are really well drawn! I read he became a botanist. I hope he got to draw his plants!

  11. rickflick
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Delightful art. It reminds me of my daughter’s artistic inclinations years ago. I probably have old software printouts with her dabbling somewhere around here.

  12. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    The manuscript of The Origin was probably largely destroyed not long after it was set in type by publisher John Murray.

    Though paper was by no means as expensive in the 1850s as it was in the 1750s, it still wasn’t cheap. In the 1750s, the habit of writing four sides of a letter on the two sides of a sheet of paper by writing one script perpendicular to the other was perfectly common. So I’d expect that the manuscript was returned to Darwin as part of the proof-reading process, and after he got the galleys back there was no use for the manuscript save as “scribble-paper” for the kids. Hell, I was still using chromatograms and manufacturing batch printouts as scribble paper for my homework well into the 1980s.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 12, 2017 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      Just what I was going to say. Darwin would have seen little point in keeping the manuscript – after all, it was all in print. And I don’t think that ‘collectivitis’ was nearly so pronounced in those days as it is now. I still use the back of printed office documents for ‘scrap paper’ – I haven’t bought any paper for decades.

      cr

      • jeremy pereira
        Posted February 12, 2017 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        I don’t buy it. If I was going to write one of the two* greatest books in scientific history, I’d look after the manuscript. Darwin could have made a packet with it on eBay.

        *Newton’s Principia.

  13. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    This one is “aubergine and carrot cavalry” by Francis Darwin (initialed FD).

    Hang on – when did the aubergine reach the foggy climes of England?
    Wiki tells me “It was originally domesticated from the wild nightshade species, the thorn or bitter apple, S. incanum, probably with two independent domestications, one in South Asia and one in East Asia.” (I’d associated it with South America – maybe I’d conflated it with … avocado?)
    Further,

    The aubergine is unrecorded in England until the 16th century. An English botany book in 1597 stated:
    This plant groweth in Egypt almost everywhere… bringing forth fruit of the bigness of a great cucumber…. We have had the same in our London gardens, where it hath borne flowers, but the winter approaching before the time of ripening, it perished: nothwithstanding it came to bear fruit of the bigness of a goose egg one extraordinary temperate year… but never to the full ripeness

    ” Must have been thinking of something else.
    Useless question & answer : if Shakespeare (maybe Chaucer) had mentioned carrots, what colour would he most likely have described them as?

  14. Mitch D.
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    The “Bright” horse has FD’s initials on it. I’m guessing the window sitter is a dog, by way of the longish snout. It actually looks like a fox.

  15. Mike
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Those kids had talent.

  16. Posted February 13, 2017 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I don’t think the birds and butterfly were done by Francis…they are too good for a child of his caliber. Perhaps he painted the background and then the flora and fauna were painted by someone with some training? Even Charles himself might have painted those. Did he ever do any of his own illustrating?

  17. Posted February 13, 2017 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    The window sitter is a squirrel.

  18. Posted February 13, 2017 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Our visit to Down House in 2015 was one of the highlights (for me) to our trip to the UK. We walked the Sandwalk as well.

    • Posted February 13, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    • Posted February 13, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    • rickflick
      Posted February 13, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Looking at Google Maps it looks like the property is very deep but also very narrow. Is that the layout?

  19. Posted February 13, 2017 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if the “fish with legs” came out of overhearing C. talking about his work …


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