After extensive searches of the Cambridge University Library in the UK, curators have concluded that Charles Darwin’s famous notebooks, where he told HMS Beagle about his idea of an evolutionary tree after a world tour, were stolen rather than lost.
First listed as missing in 2001, the university now acknowledges that they have been taken, and on November 24, the anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s Ordinary Work on the Origin of Species, launched a public appeal for assistance in identifying them. 1859.
Books known as the Transmission Notebook contain Darwin’s first music on how species can “transition” from their ancestral form to the next. These include his famous “Tree of Life” sketch.
Searches were launched several years ago, but after the latest search of the Darwin archives and storage facilities, the theft is now suspected, police have been notified, and the notebooks have been added to Interpol’s database of stolen artwork, Psyche.
How the theft happened is not certain, although security has been tightened since the disappearance. The University and Cambridge Police hope the application will help awaken someone’s memory and lead to information that can be returned to books. “Information from the public since their disappearance will be crucial to this investigation,” said Detective Sergeant Sharon Burrell.
“Security policy was different 20 years ago,” said University Librarian and Director of Library Services. Jessica Gardner said in a statement. “Today, any significant missing items like this will be immediately revealed as possible theft and a comprehensive search will begin. We keep all our valuable collections under strict security in a dedicated, climate-controlled strong room.”
2020 has been a surprisingly good year for the return of stolen goods. In January, Alan Turing’s degree and OBE medal returned to England 36 years after it was stolen by a fan. In April, an ancient ruin returned from the city of David for fear of revenge for a coronavirus mystery, and in October the artifacts stolen from Pompeii were mailed from Canada to Italy to break a 15-year-long “curse.” Here Darwin’s notebook thief thinks that after 19 years of good runs, it’s time for them to return home.