Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2022 Issue

110 Years Overdue Library Book Finally Returned


The overdue book (Boise Library images).

Rebecca was off the farm for 110 years, but she has returned. Welcome home, Becky.


Another overdue library book has been returned a bit later than usual. In this case, the book was 110 years overdue. We have seen longer delays, actually as much as three centuries late, in England, but this is America and this goes back to the Carnegie days, when thanks to Andrew Carnegie, public libraries began springing up all across America. This library was built only two years before the missing book was published.


The book was New Chronicles of Rebecca, published in 1907. If that book doesn't ring a bell, its predecessor will. It was a follow-up to the well known Rebecca of Sunny Brook Farm, from 1903. The author was Kate Douglas Wiggin, who had great success with the first title. The New Chronicles was not a sequel. Rather, it is a collection of short stories about Rebecca mostly taking place during the same time period as the first book. Only one story comes slightly after the time of the first book. Rebecca was a poor girl whose mother sent her to live with her two maiden aunts after the death of her father, hoping they would be better able to care for her and prepare the young lady for her life ahead. One aunt was stern, the other more appreciative of Rebecca's imagination and rambunctiousness.


The book had been borrowed from the Boise (Idaho) Carnegie Library in 1911. It was returned to a library out of town. We don't know who returned it, leaving us with a mystery of where it has been all these years. It was returned anonymously. Nor can the library tell us who took the book out. They didn't have computerized records in 1911 and somewhere along the way, all the old paper ones were thrown out. So the entire 110 years are a blank.


The borrower was supposed to return the book in 14 days, but instead took over 40,000. Perhaps she was a slow reader. Being one myself, I can sympathize. For a book like this, the borrower most likely was a teenage girl. If she was 13 at the time, she would be 123 now and perhaps felt it was time to put her things in order. Or, maybe it was an event that occurred in 2019 that spurred the holder to return it. That is when the library dropped its overdue book fines. Otherwise, at the then going rate of 2 cents a day, the book would have incurred $803 in fines. One of the reasons overdue book fines have been eliminated by many libraries is that people of limited means who have overdue books don't return them because they can't afford the fines. This book would have been a perfect case of that problem. If I had found an overdue library book in Grandma's attack with $803 in fines owed, I would have just left it there.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> Scott Joplin, <i>Treemonisha: Opera in Three Acts,</i> New York, 1911. Sold March 24 — $40,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Louisa May Alcott, autograph letter signed, 1868. Sold June 2 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Anne Bradstreet, <i>Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, full of Delight,</i> Boston, 1758. Sold June 2 — $21,250.
    <b>Swann:</b> William Shakespeare, <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall Copies. The Second Impression,</i> London, 1632. Sold May 5 — $161,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> John Bachmann, <i>Panorama of the Seat of War,</i> New York, 1861-62. Sold June 23 — $35,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Charlotte Bronte, <i>Jane Eyre,</i> first edition, London, 1847. Sold June 16 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Elihu Vedder, <i>Simple Simon, His Book,</i> 1913. Sold June 9 — $12,350.
    <b>Swann:</b> Frederick Catherwood, <i>Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan,</i> London, 1844. Sold April 7 — $37,500.

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