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on the origin of notebooks

Charles Darwin's long-lost notebooks returned to Cambridge library in anonymous pink gift bag

Librarians at Cambridge University just received a happy Easter surprise. 

Two of Charles Darwin's notebooks that were believed to have been stolen over 20 years ago have been returned to Cambridge University Library. The notebooks were wrapped in cling film and left in a "bright pink gift bag" along with a message that said, "Librarian, Happy Easter," the library said Tuesday

BBC News reported in 2020 that the notebooks, one of which contains Darwin's Tree of Life sketch, had not been seen since 2000. They were removed after a photography request that was completed in November 2000, but a routine check in January 2001 found they weren't back in the proper place, according to Cambridge University. While librarians at first thought they might have just been misplaced, they later concluded the notebooks had likely been stolen. 

University librarian Dr. Jessica Gardner said in 2020 she was "heartbroken" but that "we're determined to do everything possible to discover what happened and will leave no stone unturned during this process," and she issued a public appeal for more information. 15 months later, the Darwin notebooks were anonymously returned on March 9 in "good condition," the library said. 

"My sense of relief at the notebooks' safe return is profound and almost impossible to adequately express," Gardner said. "Along with so many others all across the world, I was heartbroken to learn of their loss and my joy at their return is immense." 

Gardner said the notebooks will be put on display this summer, adding their "impact on the history of science, and their importance to our world-class collections here, cannot be overstated."

It's still not clear who might have returned the notebooks, and a police investigation is ongoing.

"We share the university's delight that these priceless notebooks are now back where they belong," Cambridgeshire Police said. "Our investigation remains open and we are following up some lines of inquiry."