View a First Edition of Charles Darwin's Seminal Book

14th September 2013

See a first edition of Charles Darwin's seminal book or tour the historic Natural History Society’s council rooms at Great North Museum: Hancock

Great North Museum

In this year’s Heritage Open Days at the Great North Museum: Hancock people can see a first edition of Charles Darwin’s seminal book or tour the historic council rooms of the Natural History Society of Northumbria (NHSN).

Visitors can browse Thomas Bewick & Albany Hancock’s original watercolour paintings in the library or discuss the work of North East artist James Alder with the NHSN Archivist, June Holmes.

Take a tour of the Great North Museum library with Museum Librarian Ian Bowers featuring rare books that are not usually on display. Highlights include: a first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, Thomas Bewick first editions and watercolours, Crawhall’s illustrated Chapbooks and more on North East heritage and natural history.

There will also be a small exhibition from the archives of the NHSN’s late President and local wildlife artist, James Alder (1920-2007). People can drop in to the Council Rooms of the Natural History Society of Northumbria on the second floor of the museum and view the Alder archive from 11am – 3.30pm (No booking required).

On display will be rare copies of two beautifully illustrated books James Alder produced for the Royal family. Visitors can also see the historic furnishings and paintings in the room and talk with the archivist for the Natural History Society of Northumbria (NHSN).

About James Alder

Although mainly recognised for his wildlife paintings, James was an active ornithologist and spent years, from 1936 until the 1960s, recording his research on the small river bird known as the Dipper. His notebooks, or ‘Dipper Diaries’ and photographs of the birds on their nests form an important part of the Great North Museum library collections and will also be on show.

Alder studied Dippers along the banks of the Devil’s Water, a tributary of the Tyne near Hexham. The birds were carefully observed over many years and Alder filled his notebooks with comments and drawings on Dipper behaviour, becoming the leading authority on the Dipper, the results of his research appearing in the Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa: the Birds of the Western Palaearctic (Vol. 5) published in 1988.


Please book your place on this free tour by calling (0191) 222 3555 or emailing

For more information call the NHSN on (0191) 232 6386 or visit