A library book returned 73 years later could have cost £2,847 in overdue fees

·2-min read
A library book that has been returned more than 73 years late with a note (PA)
A library book that has been returned more than 73 years late with a note (PA)

A library book has been returned more than 73 years late, and would have racked up a late fee of £2,847.

Staff at the Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries (DCL&G) were shocked when they received a parcel containing a book that should have been returned on 6 November 1948.

The book, Stately Timber by Rupert Hughes, was due to return to what was then known as Dunfermline Public Libraries’ Central Library in Abbot Street more than seven decades ago.

It was found by the borrower’s daughter, who posted it back from Cromarty on the Black Isle with a letter explaining why the book had not been returned previously.

Donna Dewar, a cultural services assistant at DCL&G, said: “I burst out laughing when I opened the parcel, I couldn’t believe it.

“We had a book returned to our Rosyth branch after 14 years recently, which we thought was amazing enough, but this was way beyond anything we’ve heard of.”

She added: “For a bit of fun we worked out how much could have been due in fees and it comes to a whopping £2,847.

“It arrived with a lovely letter from the borrower’s daughter who was able to give us a bit of detail.”

The borrower’s daughter wrote that her late father had lived in Thornton in Fife in 1948, but she will never know if he simply forgot to return the title or chose to keep it.

“I find it fascinating to see the dates of when this book was taken out, during the latter year of WWII and that the war ended between stamps marked by librarians,” she said in her letter.

“Life goes on around momentous historical events.”

Inside the pages of the book are the date stamps and a notice that said: “This book may only be retained for 14 days. The Librarian is authorised to levy fines on readers who lose or damage books, or keep them beyond the time allowed.”

Stately Timber by Rupert Hughes - an adventure story set in Boston, US - should have been returned to what was then Dunfermline Public Libraries' Central Library in Abbot Street on November 6, 194 (PA)
Stately Timber by Rupert Hughes - an adventure story set in Boston, US - should have been returned to what was then Dunfermline Public Libraries' Central Library in Abbot Street on November 6, 194 (PA)

Christine McLean, OnFife’s head of cultural heritage and wellbeing, said: “We’re thrilled to have received it - especially as this week is Book Week Scotland when we’re doing so much to promote our libraries - and we look forward to finding a special place to display the book, and the story of its journey, in our Local Studies section at DCL&G.”

Despite its decades-late return, this book does not hold the Guinness World record for the most overdue library book. The record is held by a book returned to Sidney Sussex, University of Cambridge, that was borrowed in 1668 and given back 288 years later.

Additional reporting by PA

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