Archive for November, 2009

Other collectable items

November 25, 2009

Collecting is a great hobby. It inspires the desire to find out more about the item which is collected, leading the collector to investigate and research.

Charles Darwin, May 31st 1876 – Recollections of the Development of my Mind and Character:

“By the time I went to this day-school my taste for natural history, and more especially for collecting, was well developed. I tried to make out the names of plants and collected all sorts of things, shells, seals, franks, coins and minerals. The passion for collecting, which leads a man to be a systematic naturalist, a virtuoso or a miser, was very strong in me, and was clearly innate, as none of my sisters or brother ever had this taste.”

Sandie Robb – “I challenged myself to see how many other items I could collect that are related to the time in which Charles Darwin lived.”

Darwin was born in 1809 and died in 1882. These are the coins I have managed to collect:

From left to right:

1d (1 old penny), Queen Victoria, 1882 (front and back); 1/4d (farthing), Queen Victoria, 1858, 4d, Queen Victoria, 1855; 1/4d (farthing), George III, 1806.

The farthing from 1806, is dated 3 years before Darwin was born but George III reigned until 1820, so the same coin would have been in use during the early years of Darwin’s life.

Teaching tip:

Who reigned during the lifetime of Charles Darwin?

What other historical events were happening at the time?

Prehistoric Carvings

November 25, 2009

The fourth of the covers: Prehistoric Carvings

The stamp on this cover is Darwin with prehistoric skulls. In 1871 Darwin published ‘The Descent of Man’. In this book he applies his evolutionary theory to human evolution.

The Woodpecker Finch

November 25, 2009

The third of the covers: The Woodpecker Finch

Extract from Darwin’s Log 1835 – Galapagos Islands

“Of  landbirds I obtained twenty-six kinds, all peculiar to the Galapagos and found nowhere else, with the exception of one lark like finch from North America. The other twenty-five birds consists, firstly, of a hawk, two owls, a wren, three fly-catchers, a dove, a swallow, three species of mocking thrush. The remaining landbirds form a most singular group of finches, related to each other in the structure of their beaks, short tails, form of body and plumage. There are thirteen species which Mr Gould has divided into four sub-groups. All these species are peculiar to this Archipelago.”


The Marine Iguana

November 25, 2009

The second of the covers:  The Marine Iguana


Galapagos has two species of lizard. One is the land iguana and the other is the marine iguana.

Extract from Darwin’s Diary:

“It is a hideous-looking creature, of a dirty black colour, stupid and sluggish in its movements…there were some even four feet long…Their limbs and strong claws are admirably adapted for crawling over rugged lava rocks.”



The Giant Tortoise

November 25, 2009

A series of 4 beautiful first day covers have come into my collection since writing the book. (Sandie Robb’s collection)

“What I find really interesting about these covers are the postmarks. Look at how they all relate to the illustrations on the cover and the stamps.”

It is important when collecting stamps to look at the envelope and the postmark too. Sometimes you may not want to remove  the stamp from the envelope and keep the complete envelope as it has interesting and important information on it, even if it is not a first day cover. Cover is the word stamp collectors use for envelope. A first day cover is one postmarked on the first day of issue of the stamps it holds.

This one pictures the Giant Tortoise. Often inside first day covers there is a information card. The card inside this one has an extract from Charles Darwin’s Log 1835Galapagos Islands – the following is part of this extract:

“…Some grow to an immense size. I have been told that it requires 6 to 8 men to lift them from the ground. The old males are the largest… The tortoise which live on those islands where there is no water, or in the lower arid parts of the others feed chiefly on succulent cactus. Those which frequent the higher and damp regions eat the leaves of various trees, a kind of berry which is acid and austere and likewise a pale gren lichen that hangs in tresses from the boughs of trees.”


The original 14 species of giant tortoise are now down to 11 and may be 10 when lonesome George, the sole survivor of the Pinta Island tortoise finally dies. It is thought that George is about 90 years old but tortoises can live for up to 200 years, so he is still young and healthy at the moment. A lot of work is being done to find a mate for George, with DNA tests being done on various females to see if they are of the same species or at least a close match.

Teaching tips:

Look at the three different shapes of tortoise in these drawings and work out why they have evolved differently.  (Clues to the answer are on Page 10 of the Darwin stamp book)

(drawings copyright Teal Purrington 2007 – available as downloadable PDF colouring sheet from


‘Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps’ is Launched

November 25, 2009

At Edinburgh Zoo on the 24th November 2009 at our last event celebrating Darwin 200, the book ‘Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps‘ was launched. Exactly 150 years after Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’.

This book is available free to schools on request. It is also for sale at the price of £6 (plus postage and packing) to those outwith of education, while stocks last.

Please email Sandie Robb at

150 years since Darwin published his Origin of Species: our new Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps book arrives

November 22, 2009

Stamps, postmen, writing technology ( Victorian laptop!) and beautiful copperplate handwritten letters, Newquay Zoo's archive collection of Victorian life, Darwin's 200th Birthday launch weekend, February 2009, Newquay Zoo

24th November 1859 – 150 years ago this week, Darwin’s world-changing  book On The Origin Of Species is sold out , a bestseller in its first week. To commemorate this book and as part of , 200 copies of Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps arrive from the printers to Edinburgh Zoo and Newquay Zoo. Watch this space for more news about this publication, designed for educational use in schools.

Meanwhile you could spend a whole lesson looking at the objects in the photo and how they have changed, evolved, been redesigned, updated (or in the case of the hand written love poem, not!)