The History of Science Collections of the University of Oklahoma Libraries has received the following letter from John van Wyhe, Director of Darwin Online, hosted by Cambridge University:
The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online (or Darwin Online) is the largest and most widely consulted edition of the writings of Darwin ever published. The website contains over 91,000 pages of searchable text and 209,000 electronic images. This includes at least one exemplar of all known Darwin publications, reproduced to the highest scholarly standards, both as searchable text and electronic images of the originals. The majority of these have been edited and annotated for the first time with thousands of original editorial notes.
More copies of Darwin’s works have been downloaded from Darwin Online than have been printed by all publishers of the past 180 years combined. The website has received well over 100 million hits in the last five years.
The website also provides the largest collection of Darwin’s private papers and manuscripts ever published: c. 20,000 items in c. 100,000 images, thanks primarily to the kind permission of Cambridge University Library. Thus Darwin Online makes available not only Darwin’s published science, but the notes and data collected to create it.
Although Darwin Online is by far the most complete collection of Darwin’s writings, there are still many gaps in the ambious scope of its coverage – such as different editions and variants and particularly in the vast number of foreign translations that have been published. The majority of the large number of visitors to the website come from non-English speaking countries, which testifies to the need for Darwin’s writings to be available in as many languages as possible.
Of the more than 200 volumes reproduced on Darwin Online, thirty-seven are from the History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries. This makes the OU History of Science Collections the largest single contributor of scanned Darwin books, and particularly foreign translations. So far works by Darwin have been supplied in French, German, Italian and Yiddish. These books have been reproduced as beautiful colour images which have already been viewed by tens of thousands of readers around the world.
Thus the OU collections, in addition to their normal use by readers and researchers, find vast new audiences by virtue of their inclusion in the world’s largest collection of Darwiniana. This collaboration is clearly of enormous value to scholars and the general public.
I am very excited by the opportunity to fill so many gaps in the online collection. I should think that such an example of collegial co-operation and partnership will set an example that other institutions will envy and perhaps follow.
Naturally all of the digital images carry an indication of their provenance and the University of Oklahoma Libraries is fully acknowledged both on the individual electronic images, and the books are listed a second time on a webpage listing the works contributed, so generously, by the History of Science Collections.
With my enthusiastic thanks and best wishes,
John van Wyhe
Director, The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online