(London) Missing for more than 20 years from the British University of Cambridge and considered stolen, two precious Charles Darwin notebooks recently reappeared mysteriously in a gift bag left in the library with a greeting card.
The two notebooks, one of which contains the sketch of the “tree of life” which has become the symbol of the English naturalist’s theory of evolution, “have been returned in good condition to the library of the University of Cambridge more than two decades after they were found missing,” the library said in a statement on Tuesday.
The notebooks were delivered anonymously on March 9, 2022 in a pink bag with an envelope wishing “Happy Easter” to librarians, it is specified.
“My relief at the safe return of the notebooks is profound and almost impossible to express properly,” said Jessica Gardner, director of library services.
“Like many others around the world, I was heartbroken upon learning of their loss and the joy at their return is immense,” she added.
Mme Gardner had been behind a widespread appeal in November 2020 to find the “probably stolen” notebooks, which are estimated to be worth several million pounds. The local police had been notified and the notebooks added to the Interpol database of stolen works of art.
The two notebooks had been taken out of the room where the library’s most precious books are kept for photography in September 2000. During a routine check in January 2001, it was found that the small box containing them, from the size of a paperback, was out of place.
For many years, librarians believed the notebooks had been placed in the wrong place in the library, which houses around 10 million books, maps, manuscripts and other items.
The work of Charles Darwin (1809-1882), father of the theory of evolution, made it possible to understand that human beings were neither at the center nor at the top of life.
The two notebooks found will be presented to the public this summer as part of an exhibition in Cambridge devoted to the scientist.