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Humanist Archives: June 19, 2019, 10:22 a.m. Humanist 33.100 - saving Lyell's notebooks

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 100.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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        Date: 2019-06-19 09:16:52+00:00
        From: Jim Secord 
        Subject: Campaign to save Charles Lyell's notebooks

[The following has nothing to do with digital humanities narrowly
considered, but (as I continue to argue) the importance of researchers'
notebooks to our understanding of what they achieved, and how they
achieved it, is very great. So I pass this message on. --WM]

Charles Lyell (1897-1875) is well known for his part in the Darwinian
evolutionary debates and in convincing readers of the significance of
'deep time'. During the past decade, Lyell's geographical theory of
climate and his subdivision of recent geological strata have gained
renewed attention in connection with discussions of climate change and
the Anthropocene. The Lyell archive is almost certainly the most
important manuscript collection relating to nineteenth century science
still in private hands.  At its core are 294 notebooks, which provide a
daily record of Lyell's private thoughts, travels, field observations
and conversations.

In order for the family to meet inheritance tax, the Lyell notebooks
were sold to an unknown foreign buyer towards the end of last year.
Fortunately, the UK government has imposed a temporary export ban to
enable fundraising to purchase these remarkable documents, conserve
them, and make them available on-line for free to the public. The
University of Edinburgh Library, which already has the largest
collection of Lyell material, is organising the campaign. The website
for this became active at the end of last week. The sum required is
£1,444,000; major donors have already pledged more than a third of the
total needed.

The temporary export ban has an initial deadline of 15th July, so time
is extremely short.  If significant progress is made, then it may be
extended until 15th October. Therefore, all who are interested are asked
to pledge a donation, which will only be collected when the required
amount is achieved. For more information about the notebooks and to make
a pledge, please click on https://www.ed.ac.uk/giving/save-lyell-notebooks

If you can give anything to this campaign--even five pounds or a
pound--it will make a big difference, not least in showing larger donors
that there is substantial public interest and concern. It would be great
if we can get the donor count over 1000.

I'd appreciate it if you could pass on this message to anyone who might
be interested.

Jim Secord
University of Cambridge

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