Charles Darwin, Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle (1838-1843)

Darwin@the Library info | Exhibit brochure (pdf)

Charles Darwin, Zoology of H.M.S. Beagle (1838-1843), fox

In the Zoology, Charles Darwin described the specimens he collected and sent back to England during the Beagle voyage. The Zoology is the rarest of all Darwin’s works, issued in 19 separate parts from 1838 to 1843, with half of its 180 lithographs colored by hand. The OU copy is bound in three volumes; no page or plate is missing.

Charles Darwin, Zoology of H.M.S. Beagle (1838-1843)

Although Darwin edited and superintended the work, he was a young man and not well known to the British scientific scene, so he enlisted five elite and well-respected naturalists to collaborate with him.

Charles Darwin, Zoology of H.M.S. Beagle (1838-1843)

In Part 1, Richard Owen assisted in describing South American fossil mammals. Detailed engravings include a fold-out actual-size depiction of the skull of the prehistoric Toxodon mammal.

Darwin Toxodon

George Waterhouse assisted with living mammal specimens in Part 2. South American foxes, wild cats and aquatic mammals are portrayed alongside various species of field mice and larger rodents.

Charles Darwin, Zoology of H.M.S. Beagle (1838-1843)

Part 3 is devoted to birds. For these specimens, Darwin obtained the help of John Gould, the great English ornithologist and artist. This volume is one of Gould’s most famous works of art. Each lithograph was printed in black and white and then painstakingly hand-colored by John Gould and his wife, Elizabeth. The illustrations capture the immense variation found among species of mockingbirds and finches, and provide glimpses of species’ natural habitats based upon Darwin’s notes.

Charles Darwin, Zoology of H.M.S. Beagle (1838-1843)

Part 4 is devoted to fish and Part 5 covers reptiles. Lizards from the Galapagos Islands are depicted, along with South American frogs and toads. Surprisingly, there is no description of a Galapagos tortoise.

Charles Darwin, Zoology of H.M.S. Beagle (1838-1843)

Had Darwin never written another word, he would still be famous as the supervising author of the Zoology, a magnificent work of color natural history illustration. The Zoology brought Darwin to the attention of scientists everywhere as one of Britain’s up-and-coming young naturalists.

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More info: a previous post about the Zoology.

Examine the Zoology in high resolution at the Online Galleries:

Charles Darwin, Zoology of H.M.S. Beagle (1838-1843)

Darwin@the Library info | Exhibit brochure (pdf)

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Kerry Magruder, Curator; and JoAnn Palmeri, Librarian
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2 Responses to Charles Darwin, Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle (1838-1843)

  1. Pingback: New exhibit: Darwin@the Library | OU History of Science Collections

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