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11 Crazy Overdue Library Books That Were Finally Returned

You'll never feel bad about returning a book a few days late again.

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1 / 11

 A record-setting fine

The Guinness World Record-holder for the highest library book fine ever paid is Emily Canellos-Simms—and she didn’t even borrow the book! In 2002, she found a copy of Days and Deeds in her mother’s house. This book of children’s poems was originally due on April 15, 1955—47 years earlier. Canellos-Simms gave the Kewanee, Illinois public library a check for over $345!

2 / 11

The most presidential

Commanders-in-Chief, they’re just like us. Shortly into his first presidential term, George Washington borrowed The Law of Nations from the New York Society Library—and didn’t return it for the rest of his life! In 2010, the head librarian joked that, though they were “not actively pursuing the overdue fines,” they would appreciate having it back. And about a month later, the Mount Vernon estate did return the book—221 years overdue! If you think that’s crazy, check out these hidden talents of 24 presidents!

3 / 11

The loan outlasted the library

One book was returned so late, the library didn’t exist anymore! A copy of Master of Men by E. Phillips Oppenheim was missing from England’s Leicester County Library for 79 years. It finally turned up in a house in the area—but the library branch had been shut down, so the book just became the property of the County Council.

4 / 11

That’s late, mate

A copy of Charles Darwin’s Insectivorous Plants finally made its way back to a Sydney library after the entirety of the twentieth century had passed. It was borrowed in 1889 and returned in 2011. The craziest part about this might be the fact that Australia wasn’t even Australia when this book was borrowed: the colonies of Australia united, and became a single country, in 1901.

5 / 11

Book of shame

One guilty reader returned the offending book without showing their face, revealing their name, or paying up. Oh well, better late than never…? Fifty-five years after its 1958 due date, a copy of The Fire of Francis Xavier arrived at the New York Public Library by mail. Check out these crazy things that librarians have found in returned books.

6 / 11

Put to good use

A copy of Facts I Ought to Know About the Government of My Country almost hit 100 years overdue. A Mansfield, Massachusetts resident returned this book to the New Bedford library in 2009. He claims that his mother, who borrowed the book in 1910, was a Polish immigrant hoping to brush up on the basics of her new home’s government.

7 / 11

We see what you did there

For 63 years, a copy of The Adventures of Pinocchio was missing from Warwick, England’s Rugby Library. However, during an eight-day period of “fine amnesty,” the copy was miraculously returned. Coincidence? You decide. We highly doubt Jiminy Cricket would approve of this fine-dodging behavior. However, the library did have a £5.22 cap on fines, so the fine wouldn’t have set the culprit back too much anyway. (If not for this cap, though, the 63-year overdue period would have amounted to a fine of over 5,000 U.S dollars!)

8 / 11

Slow reader indeed

This was another overdue book that arrived by mail with no name—but this time, the perpetrator paid! The book was The Real Book About Snakes, and it was out of an Ohio library from 1972 until 2013—41 years. Enclosed with the very precise fine of $299.30 (for two cents a day) was a letter reading, “Sorry I’ve kept this book so long, but I’m a really slow reader…my apologies!” If he’s that slow a reader, we can’t help but wonder how long it took him to write that letter. But that’s the fun of library books, sometimes the past reader leaves a comment or a story behind!

9 / 11

Taking a page out of Dorian Gray’s book

A Chicago woman found a 78-year-overdue copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray among her late mother’s things. According to the Chicago Public Library librarians, the woman was incredibly relieved that she didn’t have to pay up. Since the book is about a young man who stops himself from aging by hiding an enchanted painting of himself, maybe the mother thought hiding the book would stop it from becoming overdue…?

10 / 11

Blame it on the in-laws

This overdue book made a cross-country trip. In 2014, the Mid-Manhattan Library received a package from Arizona containing a book with a 1959 due date. In an accompanying letter, the sender (who identified him- or herself as only “a shocked in-law”) claimed that they had dug the book out from among their late brother-in-law’s possessions. The book was a 1926 self-help book called Ideal Marriage, and the letter-writer admitted that this brother-in-law’s first marriage did, in fact, fail. Check out each U.S. state’s most beautiful library.

11 / 11

Way more than Forty Minutes Late

In 1917, 83-year-old Phoebe Marsh Dickenson Webb checked a compilation of short stories out of a San Francisco library. Unfortunately, she passed away before she could return it. Fast forward 80 years, when Webb’s great-grandson found the book in a trunk of her belongings. Because the great-grandson, at first, assumed the book just belonged to him now, he held onto it until January 2017. The reason he finally returned it, 100 years after it had been taken out? His cousin decided she wanted to check it out. The best part of all, though, is the title of the book: Forty Minutes Late. Ha! Now, find out the other secrets librarians aren’t telling you.

[Sources: Mental Floss, bookstr.comPeople, The New York Public Library blog]

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.