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Darwin’s "On Origin of the Species" Manuscript Doubled as Doodle Paper for His Kids

It turns out that the famed naturalist Charles Darwin was, as a parent, not too different from many of us. His original manuscript for On Origin of the Species remains one of the most important texts in the history of biology, and it later doubled as paper for his children to doodle on. They covered one side of it with their colorful drawings while the other page contained notes and scrawls for the influential book.

The scenes created by Darwin's kids are delightful. One doodle is of a man on a horse who faces off against a soldier riding a giant carrot with legs. Another image features the interior of a house that overlooks an idyllic landscape. Darwin gave these papers to his children after the book's publication, and it's a good thing he did. Out of the almost 600 pages of his original work, only 45 remain. The four pages shown here probably survived thanks to their sentimentality.

These small moments give us a peek into Darwin's personal life, and it provides us insight into him as a thinker. This manuscript and other original documents are being made available through the American Museum of Natural History's Darwin Manuscripts Project. It aims to have some 30,000 pages of his material organized and online by June 2015.

Darwin Manuscripts Project
via [GOOD and The Washington Post]

Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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