'A certain hunter of beetles and pounder of rocks'

Darwin's running list of instructions on how to prepare specimens. CUL DAR 29.3, f. 78

Guided by advice and encouragement from his Cambridge mentors, Darwin was becoming increasingly expert at specimen collecting, handling and recording. He gave each specimen a unique number: one series for the geological specimens, and two for the organic specimens, depending on their method of preservation, whether dried or ‘in spirits of wine’. He wrote labels for the specimens themselves and kept running lists with a description, date and location for each. Specimen collection was a flourishing commercial activity –– ‘Chili fairly swarms with Collectors; there are more Naturalists in the country, than Carpenters or Shoemaker[s] or any other honest trade’ – but Darwin was unusual in seeing his specimens in the context of their environment and their interdependence, in observing differences in behaviour, and in habitats. He always had a small pocket notebook handy to jot down his observations. Keenly aware that his independence from the Admiralty allowed him to dispose of his collections as he wished, Darwin shipped thousands of specimens back to Britain.