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Darwin's two stolen notebooks were returned by an unknown 20 years later

Darwin’s two stolen notebooks were returned by an unknown 20 years later

Twenty years ago, many of the writings and drawings recorded by Charles Darwin in two small notebooks mysteriously disappeared from the archives of the Cambridge University Library. One of them even contained the symbolic drawing of the “tree of life” proposed by the naturalist. These two notebooks were finally returned by an unknown person a few weeks ago.

Darwin sailed aboard the HMS Beagle on December 27, 1831 as a naturalist. The purpose of the expedition was to map the coast of South America. During this time Darwin was collecting and recording many samples along the way. he is Record all his notes in notebooks which he regularly brought back to England so that others could analyze them. Almost five years later, on October 2, 1836, the crew finally returned home.

Very quickly, Darwin returned to Cambridge, got down to business and began to understand the principle of evolution (or how to transform one species into another) that would forever perturb the scientific world. Then he drew the famous “tree of life” in his notebook B, showing a genealogical branching of a single evolutionary tree. A more complete version of this diagram will be published in 1859 at Origin of Species.

This popular “B” notebook was then stored with another notebook, “C”, in a little blue box Preserved in a vault at the University of Cambridge. In September 2000, these two notebooks, valued at several million pounds, were removed from their shelter for a photo. A few weeks later, the stunned librarians noticed that the little blue box containing the precious sesame he disappeared.

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Notebooks B and C were photographed twenty years ago. Credits: Stuart Roberts/Cambridge University Library
Charles Darwin
Credits: Stuart Roberts/Cambridge University Library

“happy Easter”

After several years of fruitless searching, Cambridge University Library has finally released a file public call On November 24, 2020. Since then, the books have been included in the National Art Loss Register, as well as in PSYCHE, the INTERPOL database. And the surprise: a few weeks ago, two notebooks were found Inside a pink bag It was deposited near the office of Jessica Gardner, Cambridge University librarian. brown envelope written on itLibrarian: Happy Easteraccompanied by them.

My sense of relief at the safe return of laptops is profound and almost impossible to express.“, to me announce Librarian. “Along with so many others around the world, I was heartbroken when I learned of their loss and the joy of their comeback is immense. They may be small, the size of a postcard, but the notebooks’ impact on the history of science and their importance to our world-class collections cannot be overstated.”

The professionals are pleased that the notebooks are still in excellent condition. To celebrate their return, they will be presented this summer as part of a free exhibition. In the meantime, the building has been extensively modernized to include new vaults. Video surveillance and access control in secure areas have also been enhanced.