The book was found by the borrower's daughter who posted it back to the library with a letter explaining everything.
A library book has been returned to its rightful home more than 73 years late. Staff at the Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries in the United Kingdom were stunned to receive a parcel containing a copy of Rupert Hughes' Stately Timber last week—seven decades after it was supposed to be returned to the then-Dunfermline's Central Library on November 6, 1948. The book, which is about an adventure story set in Boston, was reportedly found on the Black Isle by the borrower's daughter who posted it back to the library with a letter explaining everything.
"I burst out laughing when I opened the parcel, I couldn't believe it," said Donna Dewar, of Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries, according to BBC. "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. For a bit of fun we worked out how much could have been due in fees and it comes to £2,847 (approximately $3,833). It arrived with a lovely letter from the borrower's daughter who was able to give us a bit of detail."
Libraries in the area have reportedly had an amnesty on late fees throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in an attempt to encourage members to return books. In the letter sent by the borrower's daughter, she explained that her late father had lived in Thornton in Fife in 1948. "There will be 73 years of fines to pay on this book since my late father never got around to returning this book back in 1948," she wrote, adding that she would never know whether he simply forgot to return the book—"as a 20-year-old with other things on his mind"—or had chosen to keep it.
"I find it fascinating to see the dates of when this book was taken out, during the latter years of WW2, and that the war ended between stamps marked by librarians," she continued. "Life goes on around momentous historical events." The inside pages of the book show the date stamps - and a notice that the book "may be retained for 14 days." 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 currently held by a book that was returned to Sidney Sussex College at Cambridge University. It was borrowed in 1668 and returned 288 years later. "The record for an unreturned and overdue library book was set when a book in German on the Archbishop of Bremen, published in 1609, was borrowed from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge by Colonel Robert Walpole (England) in 1667–68. Prof. Sir John Plumb (UK) found the book 288 years later in the library of the then Marquess of Cholmondeley at Houghton Hall, Norfolk. He returned it, but no fine was exacted," states the Guinness World records website.