Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin
A Selection of Items from the Collections of the American Philosophical Society Library

In commemoration of the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, the American Philosophical Society presents this overview of Charles Darwin’s work, his association with the Society, images of Darwin, and the Darwin collections acquired by the Society.

Image of Darwin

The Society’s Library is fortunate to hold America’s largest collection of Darwin material, both in print and in manuscript.  The Darwin Papers at the American Philosophical Society represent approximately 15% of the known Darwin Papers. The Library’s acquisition in 1950, of 177 letters from Darwin to Sir Charles Lyell and 277 more letters to Lyell from other British and European scientists formed the nucleus of the Society’s Darwin collection. William E. Lingelbach, with the support of Edwin G. Conklin, then librarian and president respectively, purchased the letters for the Library at auction in London.

Also included are books and other items from the recently acquired Darwin book collection of James Valentine, distinguished professor of evolutionary biology emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, which includes first editions of all of Darwin’s major works. 

Dr. Valentine set out to collect, over 50 years, every edition and variant of every book by Charles Darwin, in all languages.   In combination with existing Darwin printed works already owned by APS, the collection is certain to be the largest collection of Darwin publications in the world.

This exhibit features but a small selection of Charles Darwin’s work and the Darwin collections held by the American Philosophical Society Library.  For more extensive discussion of Darwin and his work, please visit the exhibit at the Museum of the American Philosophical Society, directly across the street in Philosophical Hall, 104 South Fifth Street.