Edinburgh, Sir Charles Lyell collection updates

Dear supporters and friends,
We have good news to share. The past few years of wide ranging work at the University of Edinburgh is helping to transform and share the remarkable collection of Sir Charles Lyell. A free major exhibition Time Traveller: Charles Lyell at Work | Through Lyell’s Eyes (ed.ac.uk) at the University’s Main Library, from 10.00-6.00; Monday to Saturday. Bringing together notebooks, other archives, rare books, with geological specimens and objects, to explore the working practices and impact of this important figure. This runs until 30 March and we hope many of you can visit.

Lyell’s notebooks also feature in the University’s art exhibition The Recent | Talbot Rice GalleryThe work of eleven artiststakes us into a conceptual world of geological, evolutionary, human and environmental time, exploring what art can do to stretch the human imagination.

The digitisation of Lyell’s 294 notebooks is almost complete. The remaining few volumes, currently on display, will be digitised soon, along with a selection of other archival items. With over 40,000 digital images we will be sharing an exceptional resource for the expert, student and the curious to discover more about Lyell, his life and times. To facilitate and contextualise this new digital collection we are finalising a new Charles Lyell website. We look forward to updating you all when this is available. In the meantime basic digital access is available online and physical access is possible through our Centre for Research Collections: Access the Collection | The University of Edinburgh.

Something else to look forward to is a Lyell workshop in Edinburgh 8-9 February 2024. Open to academics, curators and archivists interested inaspects of Lyell’s work and life, on the history of geology, or on related topics bearing upon Lyell’s writings and achievements. For current details and delegate updates please refer to the blog Through Lyell’s Eyes | Charles Lyell, Geologist

The Workshop aims to provide a platform for persons interested in the life, work, and collections of Charles Lyell, and science in the nineteenth century, to come together to learn more of the Lyell materials held in Edinburgh, to explore how best to connect the disparate holdings of Lyell’s specimens and texts, and to consider future research possibilities on Lyell’s work and world. Contributions in the form of a paper to the Workshop are invited from persons working on any aspect of Lyell’s work and life, on the history of geology, or on related topics bearing upon Lyell’s writings and achievements. Contributions are also welcomed from curatorial or archival staff in institutions holding Lyell material or significant related material for an intended panel session on linking archival holdings and object collections across institutions. The Workshop will include an opportunity to see some of the Lyell materials in the Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh, and to visit the Exhibition.

If you have any queries about the Lyell collection and our ongoing activities we will be pleased to hear from you.

Thank you again to all of our supporters who have made the acquisition and access project possible.

Best wishes,


David McClay
Philanthropy Manager, Library and University Collections