Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Printable version

Handwritten page from Darwin's ‘On The Origin Of Species’ at risk of export from the UK

A handwritten draft from Charles Darwin’s revolutionary On the Origin of Species, in which he outlined his theory of evolution, is at risk of leaving the UK unless a buyer can be found.

  • Culture Minister steps in to offer reprieve for original draft page from revolutionary book which outlined his theory of evolution
  • It is one of the last known Darwin handwritten manuscripts still to exist in a private collection

A handwritten draft from Charles Darwin’s revolutionary On the Origin of Species, in which he outlined his theory of evolution, is at risk of leaving the UK unless a buyer can be found.

Michael Ellis, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, has placed a temporary export bar on the page, and two others from Darwin’s later publications, to provide an opportunity to keep them in the UK.

One of the most important books ever published, the page from On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life is valued at £490,000 (plus VAT). It includes corrections and shows Darwin’s reworking. Some of the text differs substantially from what was eventually published in the first edition of the ground-breaking book.

The two other pages are from The Expressions of the Emotions of Man and Animals, and the three combined are worth more than £800,000.

Michael Ellis, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, recently said:

Charles Darwin is one of the most influential figures in history and these pieces represent a direct and physical connection to how he developed his pioneering work.

These handwritten and personally signed pieces create an incredibly powerful impression that simply could not be achieved from looking at a digital version or even a published copy. That is why it is right that we do what we can to preserve these valuable items for the nation.

Published in 1859, On the Origin of Species is widely regarded as the foundation of evolutionary biology, and caused an intellectual revolution at the time.

Written at Down House, the page, number 324, forms part of his conclusion for Chapter 8 which focuses on hybridism and is the only substantial part of the chapter to survive.

The two separate pages from The Expressions of the Emotions of Man and Animals, published in 1872, are valued at £200,000 and £137,500 respectively (both plus VAT).

The decision to defer the export licences follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by The Arts Council.

They made their recommendation on the grounds that due to Darwin’s great significance and the impact of his work on humanity, the departure of the few pages that remain in private hands would be a misfortune. It was agreed that, in this case, the existence of digital copies would not satisfy the national interest.

RCEWA member Peter Barber recently said:

Handwritten drafts of Charles Darwin’s books are of the greatest rarity. The few surviving sheets, touched by and written on by him, with evidence of pauses for contemplation, or spurts reflecting the rapid flow of thought, bring one closer to the man and his process of creation than perhaps anything else.

The fragments under threat of export are particularly important. They show how Darwin revised his texts, pinning successive revisions onto sheets containing an earlier draft.

One fragment comes from his best-known work and indeed includes the words ‘natural selection’. But the other two fragments, from his Expression of the Emotions of Man and Animals, are perhaps even more important. Though less well-known than On the Origin of the Species this book, among the earliest works on behavioural psychology, greatly influenced Sigmund Freud. One of these fragments, for instance contains the observation that ‘Everyone protects himself when falling to the ground by extending his arms’.

The nation has the chance to save revealing and intimate fragments of two works which, directly or indirectly, have shaped and continue to shape the modern world.

The decision on the export licence application for the pages will be deferred until 7 May 2019. This may be extended until 7 September 2019 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase any of the leaves at the individual recommended prices.

Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the pages should contact the RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.

Notes to editors

Details of the leaves are as follows:

  • Autograph manuscript page from On the Origin of Species
  • Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
  • 1859, Kent
  • 1 quarto leaf (224 x 209 mm), ink and graphite on blue wove paper
  • Valued at £490,000 (plus VAT)
     
  • Autograph manuscript page from The Expression of the Emotions in Man And Animals
  • Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
  • 1872, Kent
  • 1 quarto leaf (192 - 202 mm), Ink on blue wove paper
  • Valued at £200,000 (plus VAT)
     
  • Autograph manuscript page from The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals
  • Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
  • 1872, Kent
  • 1 page, oblong slip (102 x 202 mm), ink on paper
  • £137,500 (plus VAT)

 

The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, serviced by The Arts Council, which advises the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria.

The Arts Council champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. It supports a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. More at: www.artscouncil.org.uk

 

Channel website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-culture-media-sport

Original article link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/handwritten-page-from-darwins-on-the-origin-of-species-at-risk-of-export-from-the-uk

Share this article

Latest News from
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Frontline Healthcare Case Study: 4m+ care calls answered whilst £600k+ saved