March 1, 2024

An unexpected Easter gift - Charles Darwin's lost notebooks are back - Culture

An unexpected Easter gift – Charles Darwin’s lost notebooks are back – Culture


20 years after their disappearance, two important Charles Darwin notebooks are suddenly found on the doorstep of the Cambridge librarian. In a pink gift bag.

“Life finds a way” – one can’t help but think of Jeff Goldblum’s famous sentence from “Jurassic Park” upon hearing this story: More than 20 years after their disappearance, two important notebooks of evolutionary researcher Charles Darwin (1809 to 1882) reappear . Totally unexpected and unexpected.

In 2001, Cambridge University Library staff noticed that the two works were no longer in their usual place on the shelves.

The year before, they had been taken for filming, which is why it was long assumed that the books had been misclassified. In their research, librarians combed through ten million good items.

Suspected theft of millions

Two years ago, librarian Jessica Gardner finally reported it to the police that it had been stolen. Interpol got involved and there was a global hunt for books, which were valued at several million francs.

In March 2022, the notebooks of the famous researcher suddenly appeared outside Gardner’s desk, wrapped in plastic. The pink gift bag they brought had an Easter greeting for the librarian written on it.


Unexpected encounter: Librarian Jessica Gardner with one of the scholar’s famous notebooks.

REUTERS/Stuart Roberts

“The books may be small, but their importance cannot be overstated,” she explained. According to Gardner, they are among the most important documents in the history of science. It is difficult to express her relief in words. Tears flowed.

The core of the theory of evolution

One of the books shows a diagram of Darwin’s famous Tree of Life from 1837, which he developed after his trip around the world. The drawing forms the nucleus of the theory of evolution, which the researcher had to develop more than two decades later.

Detail from one of the notebooks: drawing of a tree


Darwin’s famous Tree of Life is an important preparatory work for later evolutionary theory.

REUTERS/Stuart Roberts

It remains unclear where the books have been over the decades and who brought them back. The area outside Gardner’s office is not covered by security cameras. However, recordings from other areas of the library can provide clues. Police said an investigation is underway.

In the summer, well-preserved banknotes will be shown to the public in a special exhibition.

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