The Darwin notebooks that had disappeared for 20 years returned to Cambridge
LONDON (AP) – Two of the naturalist Charles Darwin’s notebooks that were allegedly stolen from the Cambridge University library have been returned, two decades after their disappearance.
The university said on Tuesday that the manuscripts were left in the library in a pink gift bag, along with a card wishing the librarian a Happy Easter.
The notebooks, which include the scientist’s famous 1837 “Tree of Life” sketch from 1837, disappeared in 2001 after being removed for photograph, though at the time staff believed they may have been misplaced. After searches in the library’s collection of 10 million books, maps and manuscripts failed to find them, they were reported to police for theft in October 2020.
Local investigators briefed the global police organization Interpol and launched an international notebook hunt worth millions of pounds (dollars).
On March 9, the books reappeared, left in a public area of the building, outside the librarian’s office, not covered by the security cameras. The two notebooks were wrapped in cling film inside their archive box and appeared intact. The accompanying note read: “Happy Easter X Library”.
Darwin filled his notebooks with ideas shortly after returning from his round-the-world trip on the HMS Beagle, developing ideas that would blossom into his seminal work on evolution, “On the Origin of Species.”
The university’s director of library services, Jessica Gardner, said her feeling of relief at the reappearance of the books was “profound and nearly impossible to adequately express.”
“Notebooks can now regain their rightful place alongside the rest of the Darwin Archive in Cambridge, at the heart of the nation’s scientific and cultural heritage, along with the archives of Sir Isaac Newton and Professor Stephen Hawking,” he said.
The notebooks will be on public display from July as part of a Darwin exhibition at the library.
Cambridgeshire police said their investigations are continuing “and we are following some lines of investigation”.
“We also renew our call for anyone with information on the case to contact us,” the force said.