Missing set of rare Charles Darwin notebooks anonymously returned to Cambridge University Library

Written by Sana Noor Haq, CNN

A set of rare notebooks filled with notes from Charles Darwin have been returned anonymously to the University of Cambridge, more than 20 years after he was initially reported missing.

The two notebooks, one of which includes Darwin’s famous 1837 “Tree of Life” sketch, were returned to Cambridge University Library in March 2022, the university said in a statement.

They were left outside the librarian’s office and wrapped in plastic, inside a pink gift bag with a brown envelope containing the file box of the notebooks and an unsigned printed note.

“Librarian, Happy Easter X,” the note read.

The notebooks were returned with this note. Credit: Stuart Roberts/Cambridge University Library

The precious items, which the university believes could be worth “millions”, were discovered missing during a routine check in January 2001, when it was revealed that the small box containing the notebooks had not been returned to its proper place in the collections. college specials. strong rooms.
Following an “exhaustive” search spanning years, the university officially declared the notebooks missing, and likely stolen, in November 2020.

At the time, the university issued a global appeal to help find the books.

One of two notebooks owned by Charles Darwin.  Both books were returned anonymously in March 2022.

One of two notebooks owned by Charles Darwin. Both books were returned anonymously in March 2022. Credit: Stuart Roberts/Cambridge University Library

“My sense of relief at the safe return of the notebooks is profound and almost impossible to adequately express. Along with so many others around the world, I was heartbroken to learn of their loss and my joy at their return is immense,” said the Dr. Jessica Gardner, a librarian at the University of Cambridge, in a statement announcing the return of the notebooks.

“They may be tiny, the size of postcards, but the notebooks’ impact on the history of science, and their importance to our world-class collections here, cannot be underestimated.”

“I am incredibly pleased to learn that the notebooks have returned safely to their rightful home,” said Professor Stephen J Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, in a statement announcing the return of the notebooks.

“Objects like these are crucial to our understanding of not only the history of science, but also the history of mankind.”

The Cambridgeshire Police investigation into the disappearance and return of the notebook is ongoing, the statement added.

Dr. Jessica Gardner looks at Darwin's 1837 "Tree of Life" Sketch.

Dr. Jessica Gardner discusses Darwin’s 1837 “Tree of Life” sketch. Credit: Stuart Roberts/Cambridge University Library

Darwin used the idea of ​​the tree of life to contextualize the theory of evolution and show how all species on Earth are related and evolved from a shared ancestor, according to the Natural History Museum in London.
His first sketch of the “Tree of Life” was drawn in the summer of 1837, a year after he returned to England from his voyage around the world on HMS Beagle. More than two decades later, Darwin would publish the most important book of his career, On the Origin of Species, where he expanded on his ideas on evolution.

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