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UK News Man in charge of Cambridge Library when Darwin's books were 'stolen'

01:10  25 november  2020
01:10  25 november  2020 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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Two Charles Darwin manuscripts have been reported as stolen from Cambridge University library two decades after they were last seen. Staff believed the precious items had been “mis-shelved” within the vast archives late in 2000 and the matter was not reported to Cambridgeshire police until 20

This week, Cambridge University Library announced that two of Charles Darwin ’ s priceless imagine that librarians in charge of the collection and staff photographers at the time might be spoken to as “ Darwin is one of the best loved scientists of all time. His work is highly collectible and that is clearly

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This is the librarian in charge of Cambridge University Library when two priceless notebooks belonging to scientist Charles Darwin went missing 20 years ago.

Peter Fox was head of the library when the books, worth 'many millions', went missing on his watch in November 2000.

When their absence was discovered in January 2001, it was 'assumed' they had been put back on the wrong shelf, and police were never alerted.

One of the books contains the 19th Century scientist's famous Tree of Life sketch, exploring the evolutionary relationship between species.

Following an 'extensive search', curators have now concluded they have probably been stolen.

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Charles Darwin ’ s manuscripts have been stolen from Cambridge University (PA). The two notebooks, including Darwin ’ s seminal 1837 Tree of Life sketch, were removed from storage to be photographed at the library ’s photographic unit, where the work was recorded as completed in

Two of Charles Darwin ’ s notebooks have been declared stolen , almost 20 years after they were first reported missing from Cambridge University Library . Cambridgeshire Police are now investigating the suspected theft of the small red-leather-bound manuscripts, one of which contains the naturalist’s

The library authorities only reported the suspected theft to police last month, as the current Librarian, Dr Jessica Gardner launched a global appeal for help, saying: 'We don't rule out theft, we have to rule it in.'

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Charles Darwin ' s notepads STOLEN from Cambridge : University library believes books including The two notebooks filled with his jottings were last seen in November 2000

Two of Charles Darwin ' s notebooks containing his pioneering ideas on evolution and his famous The library said they were worth millions of pounds. In one book , he drew a diagram showing The University of Cambridge 's vast library first listed the notebooks as missing in 2001 after they were

Mr Fox, 71, refused to discuss the mystery, telling MailOnline at his semi-detached house in Cambridge: 'All calls are being dealt with by the press office'.

The married father-of-two held the prestigious post from 1994 until his retirement in 2009, having previously served as College Librarian and Archivist at Trinity College, Dublin.

The books were taken from a strong-room where the University stores its renowned Darwin collection to be photographed by library staff for an 'external media organisation' in September 2000.

Because of renovation work, the photographic studio was housed temporarily in a Portacabin onsite, according to Dr Gardner, but it appears no records exist of who is supposed to have replaced the books in the Darwin Collection two months later when the photography was completed.

Dr Gardner added: 'I can't speak for my predecessors and I'm certainly not here to apportion blame, but they held the genuine belief that the notebooks had been mis-filed.'

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Two Charles Darwin manuscripts have been reported as stolen from Cambridge University Library , two decades after they were last seen. Staff believed the precious items had been “mis-shelved” within the vast archives late in 2000 and the matter was not reported to Cambridgeshire Police until

Two of Charles Darwin ' s notebooks containing his pioneering ideas on evolution and his famous The library said they were worth millions of pounds. In one book , he drew a diagram showing The University of Cambridge 's vast library first listed the notebooks as missing in 2001 after they were

Asked if the university knew who had replaced the books, she added: 'There are not individuals who are able to provide that recollection.

'Today we keep all of those records and there was a protocol in place at the time. Something has gone wrong, clearly, and that's what we're focussed on addressing today.'

She added: 'I'm heartbroken. We've devoted the whole of our careers to the preservation of cultural heritage and we're devastated by what has happened.

'We know they were photographed in November, but we do not know what happened between then and the time in January 2001, when it was determined they were not in their proper place on the shelves.

'And I'm afraid there isn't anything on the remaining record which tells us anything more.' adds Dr Gardner, who became director of library services in 2017.'

There were a number of 'intense' searches over the years. They all drew a blank.

It is a daunting task, given the vast scale of the library, with more than 200km of shelving, roughly the distance from Cambridge to Southampton by road. It is home to more than 10 million maps and manuscripts and other objects.

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At the beginning of this year, Dr Gardner arranged a new search. Specialist staff combed through specific zones of the library's storage facilities. They conducted a 'fingertip' check through 189 boxes which contain Darwin's books, drawings and letters. But still no notebooks.

A new approach was needed, according to Dr Gardner. She says she was 'not willing to accept' the notebooks would just 'turn up'.

Cambridgeshire Police have now launched an investigation in conjunction with Interpol and the disappearance of the notebooks has been recorded on the national Art Loss Register for missing cultural artefacts. The police have also added the missing notebooks to Interpol's database of stolen artworks.

The notebooks themselves are small, no bigger than a postcard. They were kept in a bespoke blue box, about the size of a paperback.

It is still possible the notebooks might be found. 'We won't stop looking,' says Dr Gardner. But it will take another five years to complete a full search of the remaining shelves and storage rooms.

In the meantime, the library is asking the public for help.

'There are good examples where things have been found, thanks to the help of the public,' says Dr Gardner.

'So I would really appeal to members of the public, former staff, researchers, anyone who might have information which would shed light.

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The book and Tree of Life sketch that changed our evolution understanding

Darwin's influential book was published in 1859. Its official title is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

It explains the scientist's theory of evolution and outlined how species were of common descent and evolved over time through the process of natural selection.

Darwin's book included evidence he had gathered on his 1830s Beagle expedition to the Galapagos Islands. It also contained a version of his Tree of Life illustration, first sketched in a notebook in 1837.

The illustration was a 'tree' depicting branches and was designed to highlight the concept of extinction through time. Despite its publication a century and a half ago, Darwin's 'On The Origin Of Species' still fuels clashes between scientists convinced of its truth and critics who reject its view of life without a creator. It has previously been voted the most influential academic book ever written.

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But Dr Gardner is reluctant to speculate where the notebooks might be.

'It's possible they are under a bed, that's the best case scenario, someone has found they can't sell them or they're just holding on to them,' she says.

Dr Mark Purcell, deputy director of research collections at the university library, said he is confident the manuscripts could not be sold on the open market and it is possible they have 'gone to ground'.

He said he hoped for a similar outcome to that of London's Lambeth Palace, where items were stolen after bombing during the Second World War.

'Forty-plus years later, quite literally as the consequence 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.

Darwin was an English scientist - naturalist, geologist and biologist - best known for his work on the theory of evolution by natural selection.

The Darwin section in the library alone comprises 189 archive boxes. The two Darwin notebooks had previously been digitised and their content is available online.

A fingertip search of key areas was carried out early this year before the matter was reported to the police in October.

Anyone who may have information about the missing notebooks can contact Cambridge University Library via email at ManuscriptAppeal@lib.cam.ac.uk.

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