Book review: ‘Darwin: a companion’ by Paul van Helvert & John van Wyhe

‘Darwin: a companion’ by Paul van Helvert & John van Wyhe

This is not a book to be read from cover to cover. It’s very much a reference work, to be dipped into at random, or to be consulted when you can’t quite recall some obscure detail concerning Darwin. Within one day of my being sent this book, it had already given me several useful pointers in research for my own Darwin book.

The detail in Darwin: a Companion borders on the encyclopaedic. If you’re interested, for example, in how much the Darwin household spent on cheese, or candles, or dripping each year from 1867 to 1881, the handy table of household expenditure on p.227 is definitely for you. And if you need to consult a list of 284 places named after Mr Darwin, you might want to check out pp.96–99. On a personal note, I was frankly astonished to find the Darwin Bicentennial Oak I planted in my garden on Darwin’s 200th birthday receive an honourable mention in the list. Vans Helvert and Wyhe have certainly left no Darwinian stone unturned.

A monumental reference work, and a must-have for all Darwin scholars.

Note: I will receive a small referral fee if you buy this book via one of the above links.


  • I received a free review copy of this book.
  • I have met John van Wyhe, and transcribed one document for his website Darwin Online.

Richard Carter, FCD

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteNewsletterMastodonetc…

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