Created by Ben Fry, The Preservation of Favoured Traces is a processing application and a infographic of changes made to Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by the man himself over the course of 13 years separating first and last edition. The first English edition was approximately 150,000 words and the sixth is a much larger 190,000 words. For example the last, 6th edition included a chapter completely rewritten and others show not only visible changes to the text but also demonstrate shifts in ideas.
This project is made possible by the hard work of Dr. John van Wyhe, et al. who run The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. The text for each edition was sourced from their careful transcription of Darwin’s books.
The application itself scans through the first addition and shows changes made. Identified by the colour any consequential changes are visualised. Moving your mouse over the changes will show exactly the text modified. In addition you can play the animation slower or faster, tracking the changes as they occur.
Ben Fry is director of Seed Visualization and its Phyllotaxis Lab, a design laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts focused on understanding complex data. With Casey Reas of UCLA, he currently develops Processing, an open source programming environment for teaching computational design and sketching interactive media software.