Missing Darwin notebooks returned to Cambridge University Library

A spokesperson for Type and Forme, the rare books specialists engaged as part of the process to officially verify the returned notebooks, said: “It is wonderful to see these notebooks, which are so fundamental to the development of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, reunited with Darwin’s other notebooks at Cambridge University Library, the world’s preeminent repository of Darwin’s correspondence and manuscripts.

“This successful conclusion to Cambridge University Library’s appeal for help – undertaken in collaboration with a range of partners in the fields of art security and rare books – will be applauded internationally.”

Angus O’Neill, Security Chair for the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, said: “The international book trade is thrilled and delighted that these wonderful notebooks are back where they belong, and openly accessible once again as such an important part of the world’s cultural heritage. “

The return of the missing notebooks comes ahead of the launch of a major exhibition of Darwin material at Cambridge University Library this summer.

Darwin in Conversation is the first major exhibition to explore Charles Darwin’s life and work through his vast global network of correspondents – from eminent scientists to pigeon fanciers and gardeners. It will open at Cambridge University Library in July, before transferring to the New York Public Library in 2023.

The exhibition has been curated using the 15,000 letters Darwin wrote during his lifetime, the majority of which are housed at the University Library in Cambridge in the largest archive of Darwin-related material anywhere in the world.

The exhibition, which is free and open to all, draws on the 40-year mission of the Darwin Correspondence Project, also based at the Library, which since the 1970s, has worked tirelessly to transcribe and publish in print (and now digitally), every surviving letter that Charles Darwin wrote and received. The 30th and final volume of correspondence will be published in 2022 to coincide with the exhibition and mark the end of one of the largest and longest-running humanities projects anywhere in the world.

Darwin in Conversation shows how Darwin was the ultimate gatherer of information, seeking out anyone whose ideas, knowledge or insight might shape the naturalist’s own views, from members of the public and subject specialists all over the world, to some of the most famous names of 19th century science .

The exhibition will also dispel the myth of Charles Darwin as a lone theoretician sitting in Down House. Experiments and interaction with a wide range of people were key to his world-changing discoveries and theories, and the exhibition reveals Darwin as a complex individual whose ideas changed over time, informed as much by the frustrations of failure as the triumphs of success.

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