Darwin's Stolen Notebooks Turn Up in a Gift Bag

'Happy Easter' reads a note signed by 'X'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2022 9:25 AM CDT
Darwin's Stolen Notebooks Turn Up in a Gift Bag
Dr. Jessica Gardner looks at the Tree of Life Sketch in one of naturalist Charles Darwin's notebooks, which have recently been returned after going missing in 2001, in Cambridge, England.   (Stuart Roberts/Cambridge University Library via AP)

Charles Darwin’s notebooks, thought to have been stolen from Cambridge University's library nearly 22 years ago, have turned up in a bright pink gift bag with a note reading "Happy Easter." The package was discovered March 9 outside the librarian's office in a public area "not covered by security cameras," per the AP. Inside were Darwin's two leather-bound notebooks, worth millions of dollars, wrapped in clingfilm inside their archive box. The library's last record of the books came from an internal request that they be moved to a temporary building during construction work in November 2000. They were discovered missing two months later, though the public was only notified in 2020.

Librarian Dr. Jessica Gardner, who feared she would never see the postcard-sized books again, described her sense of relief as "profound and almost impossible to adequately express," per the BBC. "They're some of the most remarkable documents in the whole history of science," Jim Secord, emeritus professor of history and philosophy of science at Cambridge, told the outlet. They date from the late 1830s, after Darwin returned to England from the Galapagos Islands, and feature his famous "Tree of Life" sketch. "Every page that should be there is there," said Gardner, who described the books as "in remarkably good condition." "They've clearly been looked after with care, wherever they have been."

Cambridgeshire Police are still very interested in that question. "Our investigation remains open and we are following up some lines of inquiry," according to a statement. "We also renew our appeal for anyone with information about the case to contact us." Gardner said police were given security footage from the library, which has cameras monitoring the front and back of the building, the vaults, and specialist reading rooms, per the BBC. Officers will presumably be searching for anyone seen with a pink gift bag around March 9. The note was only signed with an "X." Meanwhile, the notebooks are being held in a secure room ahead of their public display as part of the "Darwin in Conversation" exhibition in July. (More Cambridge University stories.)

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