By Nishad Karim
Hundreds of titles that filled the shelves of the ship’s library on Darwin’s five-year circumnavigation of the globe in the 1830s have been brought together and made freely available through the Darwin Online Beagle Library project.
Led by John van Wyhe, a historian of science at the National University of Singapore, a research team compiled digital copies of what they believe to be the complete set of 404 books, including thousands of stunning illustrations, that accompanied Darwin aboard HMS Beagle.
Among the titles are all 20 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica, seven volumes of the Natural History of Invertebrate Animals by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, and James Cook’s three-volume account of a Pacific Ocean voyage in the 1770s.
Darwin was 22 years old in 1831 when he set off for the Amazon, Patagonia and the Pacific aboard the ship. The trip around the world was planned to take two years, but the Beagle did not return to England until October 1836. His notes from the Galapagos and other destinations were central to the development of his theory of evolution through natural selection, which he described in his 1859 book, On the Origin of Species.