Charles Darwin' notebooks returned after 22 years

Marco Marcelline 6 April 2022

Two “stolen” notebooks written by Charles Darwin were anonymously returned to Cambridge University, nearly 22 years after they went missing

The notebooks include the scientist’s famous Tree of Life sketch and were believed to have been taken in November 2000.

Both notebooks were returned to the library in their original archive box, and included a printed message which read, ‘Librarian… Happy Easter…X”. 

Speaking to the BBC, Cambridge University’s librarian Dr Jessica Gardner said she felt “joyous” at their return. 

Initially, librarians had thought the notebooks had been misplaced by staff. After various checks through the years, head librarian Dr Gardner eventually reported the notebooks as stolen to the police and Interpol in 2020. 

Dr Gardner was also worried that the notebooks might have taken a lifetime or longer to come back. "I thought it might take years. My sense of relief at the notebooks' safe return is profound and almost impossible to adequately express. I was heartbroken to learn of their loss and my joy at their return is immense."

"There have been tears," she added. "And I think there still will be, because we are not over the emotional rollercoaster. It means so much to us to have these home." 

Cambridge University Libraries will be putting the notebooks on display this summer, as part of the upcoming exhibition Darwin In Conversation, which opens on July 9.

Featured Image credit: Cambridge University Digital Library

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