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Stolen Darwin Tree of Life Notebooks Have Been Anonymously Returned

In September of 2000, two notebooks kept by Charles Darwin — one containing an iconic “tree of life” sketch — were removed from the Special Collections Strong Rooms in Cambridge University to be photographed. In January 2001, a routine check revealed that the notebooks had never returned to their proper place. They were assumed to have been misshelved, but after a systematic search in 2020 through hundreds of archive boxes, it was confirmed the notebooks had been taken.

Cambridge put out a worldwide appeal for any information that would lead to the recovery of these historical documents, and on March 9, 2022, they were anonymously returned. The notebooks had been wrapped in saran wrap and left in a pink gift bag outside the Cambridge Librarian’s office with a note reading “Librarian / Happy Easter / X.” The notebooks are in good condition.

Find out more about these notebooks and their decades-long disappearance at the Cambridge University website.

Find more news and stories of interest from the book world in Breaking in Books.

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