Charles Darwin’s stolen notebooks mysteriously returned to library

In November 2000, librarians at the University of Cambridge received a request to obtain two valuables from their collections for photography. The two items were notebooks that once belonged to Charles Darwin, which contained his notes from the 1830s after his return from the Galapagos Islands.

The notebooks mysteriously disappeared from the library, an unexpected crime and a catastrophic loss for the collections. In an unexpected upheaval, the notebooks were finally found, left in a gift bag in the library under the same mysterious conditions that once disappeared.

The notebooks contain Darwin’s famous sketch “The Tree of Life”, among other notes that helped formulate his theory of evolution. The valuable documents were initially thought to have been lost on the shelves among the 10 million books in the collections of the Cambridge University Library.

However, no one was able to recover them and after many years, the authorities concluded that they had been stolen. In 2020, Cambridge University Librarian Dr. Jessica Gardner, Cambridge Police, and Interpol began a dynamic search for lost property.

Photo: Cambridge University Library

On March 9, 2022, officials found a pink gift bag in a public area on the fourth floor of the library. Inside were two plastic-wrapped books and a note. The unsigned, typed note read: “Librarian, Happy Easter, X”. The place where the books were placed does not have cameras, but the general entrances of the building are monitored. While police investigate the theft and mysterious return, librarians and scholars are just thrilled to have the precious notebooks behind.

“There were tears,” Dr Gardner told the BBC. “And I think there will be more, because we have not overcome the emotional shock. It means so much to us that we have them in our home. “

By analyzing the ink, the type of paper, the copper attachments of the notebooks and the contents of the pages, the scholars were able to verify their authenticity. “I wonder where they were found,” says Dr. Gardner. “They have not used them much, it is clear that they took care of them carefully, wherever they were.”

Certainly not all stolen items receive the care that these notebooks clearly received. Many questions remain. Who stole the notebooks? Why did they return them? Are we dealing with a repentant thief, a morally corrupt book collector?

Did anyone find the books in someone else’s belongings and return them without recognizing the thief? The answers are vague, but surely the mysterious person is right about one thing: it’s going to be a happy Easter at the Cambridge University Library.


Main photo: Cambridge University Library

Source: Εναλλακτική Δράση by

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