When the Beagle sailed out of Devenport on 27 December 1831, Charles Darwin was twenty-two and setting off on the voyage of a lifetime.
It was to last five years and transform him from an amiable and somewhat aimless young man into a scientific celebrity. Even more vitally, it was to set in motion the intellectual currents that culminated int he arrival of The Origin of Species in Victorian drawing-rooms in 1859. His journal, reprinted here in a shortened version, is vivid and immediate, showing us a naturalist making patient observations, above all in geology. As well as a profusion of natural history detail, it records many other things that caught Darwin’s eye, from civil war in Argentina to the new colonial settlements of Australia. The editors have provided an excellent introduction and notes for this Penguin Classics edition, which also contains maps and appendices, including an essay on scientific geology and the Bible by Robert FitzRoy, Darwin’s friend and captain of the Beagle.