Charles Darwin notebooks 'stolen' from Cambridge University

Charles Darwin’s notebooks have been reported as stolen from the UL

That's the bottom line of an appeal issued Tuesday by Cambridge University Library in the U.K. The library, which manages a massive archive of the famed naturalist's work, said it's seeking two notebooks that have been missing for almost two decades - and that, after an exhaustive search, they fear were stolen.

Two notebooks belonging to naturalist and Christ's College alumni Charles Darwin have been reported stolen from the Cambridge University Library (UL) after they went missing 20 years ago.

The library says the notebooks were last seen in the fall of 2000, when they were taken out of the room "where the rarest and most valuable items are kept" for a photography session.

The notebooks that reportedly cost millions of pounds were taken to a temporary storage facility in 2000 due to building works in the library.

The items were logged as photographed in November of the same year, but a routine check in January 2001 found that the small box containing the books had not been returned to its correct place. Police are now investigating and Interpol has also been notified.

"We would be hugely grateful for anyone with information that might assist in their recovery", she added.

Dr Gardner reported the matter to police.

Darwin, most famed for his evolutionary theory, was born in Shrewsbury on the February 12, 1809 at Mount House. The town celebrates him with a Darwin Festival, and there is a statue of him outside the town centre library where he went to school.

"Forty-plus years later, quite literally as the effect of a deathbed crisis of conscience, those items came to light and were returned to Lambeth and I think that's the sort of outcome which we and all institutions of this kind would clearly wish to hope for", he said.

An example of an identical box and notebook from the library's Darwin Archive.

It takes quite a while to look through a library with over 10 million books, maps, and manuscripts, so the search continued and nobody was too anxious.

"We've devoted the whole of our careers to the preservation of cultural heritage and we're devastated by what has happened". The little drawing, better known among scholars as the "Tree of Life" sketch, reveals elements of Darwin's thinking more than two decades before he fleshed out his ideas in his ground-breaking On the Origin of Species. Image credits University of Cambridge.

The University Librarian, Jessica Gardner, released a video statement appealing to the public to help.

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