Former Bennington College president Frederick Burkhardt founded The Darwin Correspondence Project in 1974, with the aid of Sydney Smith, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge (U.K.). They originally set out to locate, research, and publish summaries of all letters written by Charles Darwin, the most celebrated naturalist of the nineteenth century (1809-1882). Following a pilot project, it was decided to include letters written to Darwin as well—an unusual step for a collection of correspondence at the time, and one now widely followed—and to publish complete transcripts in chronological order.
Since then, the Project has had a staff of researchers and editors in both the U.K. and U.S., those in the U.K. being based at the Cambridge University Library, which houses the largest single collection of Darwin's manuscripts, and his own library of books and journals. The papers include around 9,000 letters.
Click to read a 2003 Bennington magazine article about the project, including some facsimiles of Darwin's letters.
Click to learn more about the Darwin Project.