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Darwin Notebooks Returned

Many will have seen the international news coverage recently on the safe return of the Darwin notebooks.

ABA and ILAB want to draw attention to this positive outcome of the large publicity campaign by Cambridge University Library.

In an extensive collaborative effort, the library went public, searching for Darwin's notebooks that had been missing since 2001. Institutions worldwide, the international trade and the press disseminated the library's appeal back in November 2020 to find these items of historical value; one of the notebooks contains Darwin's famous 1837 "Tree of Life" sketch.

A short while ago, an anonymous gift bag with an envelope was placed on the floor outside the librarian's office with a note "Librarian - Happy Easter - X". The envelope contained the notebooks wrapped in cling film.

The library has now officially announced the safe return of the notebooks which will be displayed among other items at an exhibition "Darwin in Conversation" (opens 9 July).

"ILAB booksellers across the world were absolutely delighted to learn of the return of the Darwin notebooks. We were also inspired by Cambridge University Library taking the non-traditional, and no doubt somewhat uncomfortable, approach of publicly announcing their loss which undoubtedly contributed to their return. ILAB applauds Dr Jessica Gardner and her colleagues at the Cambridge University Library for taking this path and hopes that other institutions learning of their success will follow in their footsteps." Sally Burdon, ILAB President

For all security-related matters, please never hesitate to contact the ILAB Secretariat and make active use of the recently relaunched ILAB Missing Books Register: These collaborative efforts can make a very practical contribution to finding missing antiquarian material, stopping it from circulating, and discouraging theft in the first place.

Watch the Cambridge University video on the returned Darwin notebooks here.