Darwin's Library From the HMS Beagle—The Digital Edition

More than 400 books that helped create evolutionary biology have been re-assembled into an online library

Darwin's library aboard the Beagle contained many geology texts, including both volumes of the 1819 work "Treatise on Geognosy: A presentation of the current knowledge on the physical and mineral constitution of the globe" by Jean Francois d'Aubuisson de Voisins. It included this fold-out colored figure.
Darwin would have come across this finely detailed chart of a bivalve in the "Manuel de Malacologie et Conchyliologie," by Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville, 1827. Malacology is the study of mollusks and conchology is the study of mollusk shells.
We may think book titles these days are too long, but they're downright terse compared to this 1817 book that was part of Darwin's Beagle library: "Narrative of a Journey in the Interior of China, and of a Voyage to and from that Country, in the Years 1816 and 1817; Containing an Account of the Most Interesting Transactions of Lord Amherst's Embassy to the Court of Pekin. And Observations on the Countries Which it Visited."
Charles Lyell's three-volume "Principles of Geology" (1830-1833) was among the era's most influential natural history works, so of course it was in the library aboard the Beagle. The series popularized uniformitarianism--the idea that the processes acting on the Earth today also shaped geology long ago. The concept is said to have helped Darwin develop his Theory of Evolution By Natural Selection.
The plates for Alexander von Humboldt’s "Personal Narrative of Travels" were digitized for the first time as part of the "Darwin's Beagle Library" project. Humboldt, a Prussian geologist, spent five years exploring South America at the beginning of the 19th century. In the Andes, he nearly summited the 20,564-foot dormant volcano Mount Chimborazo. His influential writings made the case for the Old and New Worlds having the same geological age.
This illustration of a western barred bandicoot, a rat-sized marsupial, appears in Louis Claude Desaulses de Freycinet's nine-volume "Voyage autour du monde entrepris par ordre du Roi, exécuté sur les corvettes de S.M. l'Oranie et la Physicienne pendant les années 1817, 1818, 1819 et 1820." Today the species is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.
These "fat-rumped sheep" appear in Thomas Pennant's two-volume "History of Quadrupeds," 1793, which were among the books in Darwin's library on the Beagle. "The buttocks appear like two hemispheres, quite naked and smooth," wrote Pennant, "with the os coccygis between scarcely sensible to the touch…[T]hese Cheep grow very large, even to two hundred pounds weight, of which the posteriors weigh forty."
Darwin described a snake in one of his Beagle voyage notebooks as "primrose yellow," a color noted in the book "Werner's nomenclature of colors," by Patrick Syme, 1821, which was part of the shipboard library aboard the Beagle.
This delicate drawing of crystals appears in one of the entomology texts in Darwin's Beagle library, "Memoire sur les Habitudes des Insectes coléoptères de l'Amérique méridionale", by M. Jean Théodore Lacordaire, 1830.
As the HMS Beagle sailed around the South American coastline, perhaps Darwin came across this map from "A voyage to South America: describing at large the Spanish cities, towns, provinces &c.; on that extensive continent," by Antonio de Ulloa, 1806.