Charles Darwin’s ‘Stolen’ Notebooks Returned to Cambridge University Library After 22 Years

The two priceless notebooks belonging to Charles Darwin have mysteriously returned to the Cambridge University library after they disappeared 22 years ago.

The leather-bound notebooks worth millions of pounds returned in a bright pink gift bag left on the floor of a public area of the library with no surveillance camera, outside the librarian’s office on March 9, the university announced in a statement on April 5.

The notebooks, about the size of paperback books, came with a plain brown enveloped with a printed message that said, “Librarian, Happy Easter X.”

The notebooks are said to be in good condition, without any obvious signs of significant handling or damage sustained during their disappearance.

Of the notebooks, one contains Darwin’s seminal 1837 “tree of life” sketch, which helped inspire his theory of evolution and it would later become a central theory in his work, “On the Origin of Species.”

The notebooks were last seen on November 2000 after “an internal request” to remove them from storage to be photographed.

During a subsequent routine check in January 2001, the notebooks were discovered to be missing. The librarians initially thought the notebooks were misplaced, given that the library contained over 10 millions books, maps, and manuscripts.

After various searches, Dr. Jessica Gardner, who became director of library services in 2017, reported to the police in 2020 that the notebooks were stolen, prompting a worldwide appeal with the help of Interpol.

The notebooks will go on public display in July as part of a library exhibit titled, “Darwin on Conservation.”

Cambridgeshire Police said the investigation on who stole the notebooks and where it had been for over two decades continues.


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