Charles Darwin Letters

Two collections of letters, written to and by Charles Darwin.

UBC Woodward Library acquired two collections containing letters to and from Charles Darwin, the well-known evolutionary biologist and originator of the concept of natural selection.

The main group of letters is the Darwin-Burdon-Sanderson Letters – 1873-1881. This collection was part of a purchase of books and manuscripts from Dr. Hugh Sinclair, lecturer in physiology and biochemistry, Magdalen College, Oxford in 1966. This group of about 40 letters consists of correspondence between Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882) and John Scott Burdon Sanderson (1828 - 1905) during the years 1873-1881.

The letters deal with the research Darwin and Burdon Sanderson did on the digestive powers and leaf movements of insect-eating plants, notably the genera Drosera and Dionaea. Darwin published the results of this research as part of his Insectivorous Plants (1875).

The second group of letters is part of the Fox/Pearce (Darwin) Collection – 1821-1884. This group of approximately 80 items was acquired in 1970 from Captain Christopher Pearce, a descendant of the Fox family.

Many of these letters are detailed accounts of what the letter writers have and need in their pursuit of "natural history." Insects, birds and eggs feature prominently.

These collections are now housed at the UBC Library Rare Books and Special Collections division.

Additional Resources

Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online
This site currently offers more than 50,000 pages of searchable text and 45,000 images of both publications and transcribed manuscripts.

Darwin Correspondence Project
The Darwin Correspondence Project exists to publish the definitive edition of letters to and from Charles Darwin. The project is now adding the full texts of the letters themselves.

Darwin Manuscripts Project

This site links to the full text of some of Darwin’s manuscripts and publication hosted at the American Museum of Natural History.