‘Never Too Late’: Book Overdue By 119 Years Returned To Library

[Screenshot/Facebook/New Bedford Free Public Library]

John Oyewale Contributor
Font Size:

A book borrowed from a Massachusetts library 119 years ago made its unexpected return to the library, the Associated Press (AP) reported Saturday.

A reader curious about the then-new phenomenon of electricity borrowed a book, “An Elementary Treatise on Electricity,” from the New Bedford Free Public Library in February 1904, according to the AP news report. The book was written by Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell and published posthumously in 1881, a year after Thomas Edison patented his incandescent electric bulb.

The book was never returned until Stewart Plein, the curator of rare books at West Virginia University Libraries, spotted it among a recent donation of books. Plein observed the book was not a discarded copy as it had not been stamped “Withdrawn” despite its being extremely overdue, the AP report noted. Plein then returned the book to Jodi Goodman, the special collections librarian in New Bedford, with an accompanying note that partly read, ‘Dear Jodi, I am happy to return this book to its rightful owners.’ (RELATED: Library Book Returned After Almost 100 Years)

New Bedford Public Library Director Olivia Melo said Friday to the AP, “This came back in extremely good condition. Someone obviously kept this on a nice bookshelf because it was in such good shape and probably got passed down in the family.” Melo also noted the book was by far the most overdue book the library had ever received and that the incident was a testament to “[t]he value of the printed book” as “it’s not digital, it’s not going to disappear, [and] is always going to be valuable.”

The borrower would have accrued over $2,100 in late return fines, as the New Bedford library has a five-cent-per-day late fee, the AP noted. However, the library had set a late-fee cap of $2.

The library cheered upon receiving the book, announcing in a June 21 Facebook post, “It’s never too late to return an overdue library book!”