News & Opinion | November 25, 2020 12:56 pm

Missing Charles Darwin Notebooks Deemed “Likely Stolen”

Twenty years after they went missing, the notebooks are now presumed victims of theft

charles darwin
RIP Darwin's notebooks
SHAUN CURRY/AFP via Getty Images

Someone stole Charles Darwin’s notebooks. Plot twist: it happened 20 years ago.

Two decades after the items were first noticed missing from the Cambridge University Library, the notebooks’ status has been changed from lost to likely stolen, CNN reported.

The notebooks, one of which contains Darwin’s 1837 “Tree of Life” sketch, never returned to their place among the other rare and valuable items housed in the university’s special collections strong room after they were removed to be photographed in 2000. For years, the notebooks were presumed lost in the sprawling library, which is home to around 10 million books, maps, and manuscripts.

After an “exhaustive” search of the library produced no sign of the missing notebooks, however, the University has declared the notebooks missing and likely stolen.

“I am heartbroken that the location of these Darwin notebooks, including Darwin’s iconic ‘Tree of Life’ drawing, is currently unknown, but we’re determined to do everything possible to discover what happened and will leave no stone unturned during this process,” Jessica Gardner, university librarian and director of library services, said in a statement.

“We would be hugely grateful to hear from any staff, past or present, members of the book trade, researchers, or the public at large, with information that might assist in the recovery of the notebooks. Someone, somewhere, may have knowledge or insight that can help us return these notebooks to their proper place at the heart of the UK’s cultural and scientific heritage.”

The university said it plans to continue its search over the next five years. In the meantime, sounds like we can probably expect the notebooks to star in a forthcoming season of Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries reboot.