Nova Scotia·Photos

Stolen copy of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species returned to Halifax university

A rare, first-edition of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species stolen by a Nova Scotia man has finally been returned to its rightful owners.

Rare 1st-edition returned to Mount Saint Vincent University collection

      1 of 0

      A rare, first-edition of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species stolen by a Nova Scotia man has finally been returned to its rightful owners.
       
      The copy of Darwin's most important work was returned to the Mount Saint Vincent University today. 

      The valuable book was stolen by antiquity thief John Mark Tillman who had a huge cache of items stolen from various museums and libraries hidden in his Fall River, N.S., home.

      "For us, this is the last pieces of the puzzle, to return this book back to the Mount," said RCMP Const. Darryl Morgan, one of the lead investigators on the Tillman case.

      "It's been quite the experience. I've got to travel around the Maritime provinces, going to museums. I was in New York City two weeks ago, retrieving the book from Homeland Security. It's been the RCMP Antiques Roadshow. It's been a great time." 

      Mount Saint Vincent University reported the book stolen from a locked glass cabinet in 2009, and Tillman sold it to a local collector for $31,000. He, in turn, sold it at a Sotheby's auction in New York for $42,500 on June 15, 2012.

      The U.S. Department of Homeland Security subsequently seized it. 

      'Heartbreaking' theft

      The book, published in 1859, is one of only 1,250 first-edition printings of Darwin's seminal work. 

      It's not clear how many copies still exist.

      Sotheby's 2012 catalogue lists the university's copy as "the most important book in science" and lists the book's value between $35,000 and $50,000.

      The book is now being stored in the locked cabinet at the Mount Saint Vincent University library. The university has amped up security since the 2009 theft.

      Tanja Harrison, an MSVU librarian, said the "heartbreaking" theft left people at the university doubtful they would ever see the rare book again.

      "We're thrilled, here at the Mount library, to get our copy of the Darwin [book] back," she said.

      Two other Charles Darwin books Darwinism: An Exposition of the Theory of Natural Selection and The Effects of Cross and Self Fertilization in the Vegetable Kingdom were also taken in the heist.

      RCMP arrested Tillman and searched his Fall River home for six days in January 2013.  In September 2013, Tillman entered guilty pleas to 40 charges. He was sentenced to nine years in prison. 

      Comments

      To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

      By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.