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MV delighted to return Mary Anning’s book

Emma Ruminski & Marcus White, Lost Mary Anning book back in UK after chance find, BBC News, 22 May 2024

The 1821 work deals with prehistoric crinoids or sea lilies. Source: BBC.

A book that once belonged to 19th Century fossil hunter Mary Anning and was later stolen from a museum has been returned on her birthday.

The scientific work disappeared from Lyme Regis Museum in Dorset more than 40 years ago.

Geology curator Dr Paul Davis found it by chance at a museum in Australia when he spotted it on social media.

The book arrived back in the UK on Tuesday, the date of the pioneering fossil collector’s birth in 1799.

Mary Anning was a pioneering fossil collector and dealer. Source: BBC.

Dr Davis recognised the work from the author’s handwritten inscription to Ms Anning when he saw a YouTube video in 2022.

He said: “It was that ‘Oh my word’ moment when I realised that this was one and the same book.”

The 1821 work, JS Miller’s Natural History of the Crinoidea, deals with so-called sea lilies, whose fossils have been found at Lyme Regis and Charmouth.

It was noticed to be missing in the 1985 by former honorary curator and author John Fowles.

Dr Paul Davis said spotting the lost book on YouTube was an “‘Oh my word’ moment”. Source: BBC.

The museum said it had probably been stolen between 1946 and 1979, a period when people could visit the museum without being supervised.

Museums Victoria in Australia said it bought the book for £300 from an Oxford academic book shop in 1985.

It said: “We are pleased to return this book to the Lyme Regis Museum, in recognition of… the significance of Mary Anning’s life and legacy to this region’s history.”

The work will go on public display at the Dorset museum from June.