The University of Edinburgh's rare and unique collections catalogue online.

Lyell Collection

TitleLyell Collection
DescriptionThis collection consists of around one hundred stone artefacts (axes, spears and arrow heads), three meteorites, 25 fossils, 25 rocks and Sir Charles Lyell’s own lecture notes from his tours of America in the 1840s. Most of the material was collected by Lyell or given to him on his many geological excursions. Some of the specimens are significant because they were used to illustrate his books or were collected at a time when important ideas were developing. Sir Charles Lyell was born into a wealthy landed family at Kinnordy, Angus in 1797. The family’s wealth gave Lyell the opportunity for higher education and travel. He studied Classics at Oxford in 1816-1819 and attended lectures by Dean Buckland, Professor of Geology. These lectures inspired Lyell to take up the study of geology. Lyell spent many vacations on extended geological tours in Europe where he met many famous scientists of the time. When he graduated in 1819, his mind was full of geological observations and current geological theories. After a brief time in the legal profession he devoted himself fully to geology “bitterly regretting the long delay”. He is seen by some to be the intellectual successor of James Hutton, who died in the year Lyell was born. Lyell’s main contribution to geology was the way he assembled observations and ideas (his own and others) into a structured and unified framework which had previously been lacking. The results of his lifelong work were major texts: “Principles of Geology” (1830 vol. 1/1832 vol. 2)) and “Elements of Geology” (1838). Both publications were highly popular and influential. The young Charles Darwin set sail on HMS Beagle in 1832 “clutching the two volumes of Lyell, hot from the press”. Lyell died in 1875.
CustodianSir Charles Lyell (1797-1875)
Custodial HistoryMost of the material was collected by Sir Charles Lyell or given to him on his many geological excursions. The Lyell collection was donated to the University in 1927 by the Lyell family.
OriginEngland; Europe; Italy; North and Central America; Scotland; United Kingdom; United States
Parent Collection Geology Collection

Image: Image