Charles Darwin’s notebooks have been reportedly stolen from Cambridge University library.
Staff had believed the irreplaceable pieces had been “mis-shelved” within their archives in 2000 so it was not reported to the police until this year when someone realised it may have been stolen.
The monetary value of the notebooks is not known as they are so unique, but the library said it would probably reach millions of pounds.
The two notebooks, including Darwin’s Tree of Life sketch from 1837, were taken from storage to the library’s photographic unit where the work was recorded. In January 2001 the staff discovered that the box containing the notebooks was not put back in its proper place.
Dr Jessica Gardner, director of library services since 2017, said: “My predecessors genuinely believed that what had happened was that these had been mis-shelved or misfiled and they took forward extensive searches over the years in that genuine belief. Now we have completely reviewed as a new team what happened and come to a conclusion that that’s not a sufficient position or set of actions to take.”
Dr Mark Purcell, the deputy director of Research Collections, said that due to the nature of the manuscripts, they could not be sold on the open market and it was more likely they had “gone to ground”.
The two Darwin notebooks had previously been digitised and their content is available online.
The vice-chancellor of the university, Prof Stephen J Toope said: “Cambridge University library is one of the world’s great libraries and home to globally important collections, assembled and cared for over six centuries, and encompassing thousands of years of human thought and discovery.
“As a result of this appeal for help, we hope to locate the missing Darwin notebooks and restore them to their rightful place alongside the university library’s other treasures, making them available to scholars and researchers in the centuries to come.”
Anyone who may have information about the missing notebooks is asked to contact Cambridge University library via email at [email protected]