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About the Collection

Information about the content and history of the Sir Charles Lyell Collection at the University of Edinburgh, including Lyell's papers, notebooks, published works and geological specimen collection

The Sir Charles Lyell Collection is the sum of multiple accruals which have coalesced at the University of Edinburgh over a span of almost 100 years. The first of these accruals was a collection of letters and notes;  'The Papers of Sir Charles Lyell' presented, in 1927, to the Grant Institute of Geology at the University of Edinburgh by Lady Lyell of Kinnordy. At the same time were given select works from Lyell's library at Kinnordy House, which feature Lyell's indexes and marginal annotations. These papers and books were transferred from the Grant Institute to the care of the University of Edinburgh's Library and Special Collections in two tranches, the first arriving in 1960 and then another in 1975.  

Thanks to the dedicated support of leading institutions, groups and individuals, the University of Edinburgh led a successful campaign in 2019 to acquire Lyell's 294 notebooks. In 2020, the remaining papers of Sir Charles Lyell were allocated to the University of Edinburgh under the UK Goverment's 'Acceptance in Lieu of Inheritance Tax' scheme. The Lyell archives continue to grow as a number of smaller acquisitions were, and continue to be, made. These have included a series of around 100 letters, and in October 2020, an album of 118 letters and 57 portraits was acquired thanks to the united support of both the Friends of the National Libraries and the Friends of Edinburgh University Library. 

This vast and comprehensive collection of papers, correspondence, notes and drawings brought together between 1927 and 2020 are complemented by a collection of around 150 geological specimens which can be found at the University of Edinburgh's Cockburn Geological Museum.  

Each element represents a significant resource for researching and understanding the work of Sir Charles Lyell.  Brought together as a whole, the collection offers a holistic window into the methods in which Lyell worked, his wide network of corrrespondence, his public lecture plans and notes, and the way in which he formed his ideas, both in writing and visually.  Lyell's rigorous correspondence and debate, revisions of his published works, his fieldwork and notes all demonstrate the way in which he and others formed and revised their ideas; ideas and thinking which inform so much of our understanding of the world today. 



The Papers of Sir Charles Lyell

Drawing from Charles Lyell's Notebooks
Find out more about the original collection of material 'The Papers of Sir Charles Lyell', donated to the University in 1927.

Sir Charles Lyell's Notebooks

Charles Lyell's Notebooks

The Lyell Geological Specimen Collection

Charles Lyell Specimens
The Sir Charles Lyell geological specimen collection at the Cockburn Geological Museum