Many weeks after two very valuable Charles Darwin notebooks were reported stolen by Cambridge University Library, there is not a sniff as to their whereabouts. That's hardly surprising, as they were last seen in November 2000 and reported missing in January 2001. The library made the news public at the end of November 2020. It notified local police, and the artifacts were added to the U.K.'s Art Loss Register and Interpol's database of stolen artworks, Psyche. In addition, the library says it is working with security and asset recovery specialists to try to find the notebooks, as well as with the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association. It is also calling on the public to keep an eye out.
A Cambridge University Library spokesperson says, "We remain hopeful that the public appeal will lead to new information which returns the Darwin notebooks to their rightful home at Cambridge University Library, home to the world's most extensive and important archive of Darwin material." The library will "continue to work closely with Cambridgeshire Police and have passed on information from a number of public emails following the launch of the November appeal."
The spokesperson notes that security has "changed significantly" in the past 20 years: "In 2021, all our precious collections are kept under the strictest conditions, in dedicated high security strong rooms meeting national standards. Likewise, the building has transformed significantly since the notebooks were first reported missing. We have new strong rooms, new specialist reading rooms, CCTV, enhanced access control to secure areas, and we participate in international networks around collections security."
The notebooks include Darwin's 1837 Tree of Life sketch, which explores evolutionary relationships among species. Media reports put the value of the works at many millions of pounds. But Cambridge University Library says it would be difficult to estimate. "My predecessors genuinely believed that what had happened was that these had been misshelved or misfiled," says Jessica Gardner, university librarian and director...