HMS Beagle specimens and an original page of 'Origin of Species' to be reunited at Darwin exhibition

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London, July 3 (ANI): Specimens and manuscripts from Charles Darwin's Beagle voyage - not seen together since that historic circumnavigation of the globe - will be reunited at the opening of Cambridge University Library's new exhibition next Monday.

A Voyage Round the World: Charles Darwin and the Beagle Collections in the University of Cambridge opens on July 6 and brings together the world's foremost Darwin archive, preserved at the Library, with a wealth of Darwin collections held around the University.

Included among Darwin's manuscripts, books and correspondence will be the letter offering the 22-year-old Cambridge graduate a place on board the Beagle.

An original sheet from the manuscript of On the Origin of Species - subsequently used as drawing paper by Darwin's children - forms one of the most striking exhibits, as do the sketchbooks of official Beagle artist Conrad Martens.

Curator Alison Pearn of the Darwin Correspondence Project said: "This is a wonderful and unique opportunity to share the University's remarkable collections. Individually, the manuscripts and specimens are invaluable to scholars; together they bring Darwin and his ideas powerfully to life in a way that everyone can enjoy for the rest of this Bicentenary year."

The free exhibition, officially opened on July 8 by William Huxley Darwin, the naturalist's great-great grandson, reveals how Darwin's experiences on the Beagle played an essential role in the formulation of his theories throughout the rest of his life

In what has been described as 'the most significant gap year in history', Darwin, an able but untried Cambridge graduate, left England aboard HMS Beagle on a voyage originally intended to be a two-year admiralty expedition. He returned nearly five years later from 'by far the most important event in my life' as a fully-fledged member of the scientific establishment.

The exhibition gives us a much better understanding of Darwin the man: student, son and brother and, later, husband and father.

Particularly touching is the sheet of the Origin of Species with drawings by Darwin's children on the back. Few pages of the manuscript survive but some were apparently preserved by the family solely because, after Darwin finished with it, he gave it to his children as drawing paper.

The exhibition opens to the public on Monday, July 6 and runs until Wednesday, December 23, 2009. (ANI)

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