New Zealand’s most overdue library books, 121 years late

We have all been guilty of forgetting to return a library book on time but what happens when you forget for 121 years? A Herald investigation reveals the country’s most overdue library books.

Every council in the country was contacted and asked about their most overdue book.

Children’s books appear to be the most commonly overdue, making up about 35 per cent of the responses.

Not every library kept the data on file but some of those that did, reported decades of theft.

Here is the list of the country’s most overdue library books:

Number one:

Macaria by Augusta Evans-Wilson

Coming in at number one is a book that was 121 years overdue or 44,044 days.

Macaria by Augusta Evans-Wilson was issued at the Cambridge Public Library, managed by the Waipa District Council, on October 16 1897.

The fiction novel was dedicated to the soldiers of the Confederate States Army. The book was burned by some protesters.

Evans-Wilson was a prolific author, producing many of her novels during the American Civil War. She was a staunch US southern patriot.

It was returned in July 2018 and the person responsible was let off the late fee, which would have been about £62,920 or $51,893 today according to the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

It has been kept on display in the library but is no longer available to be issued.

Number two:

The Earl of Derby by George Saintsbury

The case of the missing book at the Newtown Library in Wellington came to light last year when The Earl of Derby by George Saintsbury was returned 118 years late.

The book from 1892 is one in a series of books about the prime ministers in the reign of Queen Victoria.

The work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is considered part of the knowledge base of civilisation as we know it.

Master bookbinder Barbara Schmelzer found the book, issued in 1902, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, rebound and returned it to the library.

“We have decided to waive the one penny per day fine,” a Wellington City Council spokesperson said at the time.

Number three:

Hocken’s Bibliography of New Zealand Literature

This book must be an incredibly captivating read, so good in fact somebody forgot to return it for 82 years.

The bibliography was due back in 1939 at a library managed by the Waimakariri District Council, but is yet to be returned.

While the Rangiora Library was being built in 1996, staff stumbled across a letter that had been sent to the library by Howard Kippenberger who was considered one of the town’s most well-known residents.

It reads:

“For some years I have looked occasionally and with satisfaction at a copy of Hocken’s Bibliography of New Zealand Literature standing on my shelves.

“On Sunday I was straightening them up. I have about 1500 books and for the first time that I can remember took this book down and looked at it. To my consternation, I saw that it belongs to the Rangiora Public Library and I am posting it to you herewith.”

Number four

The History of Hampton Court Palace by Ernest Law

The book, written in 1890, was expected back at the Ashburton Public Library in 1945.

Librarians waited patiently for 55 years before the book again made an appearance when it was returned in 2000.

A spokeswoman for the library said they still have the book, which is a handsomely bound volume with original library gold lettering on the front.

An expert on Tudor history, Law was appointed official historian at Hampton Court Palace and given a residence there which led to him writing the non-fiction book.

Number five:

Later Notes from a Backblocks Hospital by G.M Smith

Somebody must have taken a leaf out of Later Notes from a Backblocks Hospital’s book and were late in getting it back to the Greymouth Municipal Library.

The book was due back in 1960 but was returned 53 years later in 2013.

It was mailed to the library by a doctor living in Australia. He read it while working at Greymouth Hospital took it with him when he left the country.

The book from 1949 is a collection of medical notes from Dr G. M. Smith.

The rest – lost but not forgotten

• Wacky Wednesday by Dr. Seuss, due back July 10, 1991. (Taupo District Council).

• Health and Energy Cookbook by Rosemary Stanton, due back in 1995. (Kaikoura District Council).

• Landmarks: The Landscape Paintings of Doris Lusk by Lisa Beaven, due back in 2000. (Gore District Council).

• The Seven Treasure Hunts by Betsy Byar, due back in September 2000. (Southland District Council)

• Love is in the Air, due back in December 2004. (Invercargill City Council)

• The Secret of Shambhala by James Redfield due back in Feburary 2004. (Masterton District Council)

• Noddy Goes Shopping, due back in July 2005. (Waimakariri District Council)

• Visual Arts in the Twentieth Century by Edward Lucie-Smith.
Kura Te Waru Rewiri: A Maori Woman Artist by Camilla Highfield. Both books were due back in January 2006. (Gisborne District Council).

• Outdoor Safety: Risk Management for Outdoor Leaders, due back in July 2008. (Dunedin City Council).

• Dog Magic, due back in September 2009. (Whangarei District Council).

• All About Your Puppy, due back in 2009 (Western Bay of Plenty District Council) 2009

• Supernanny: How to Get the Best From Your Children, due back in July 2010. (Whakatane District Council).

• 2006 International Plumbing Codes Handbook, due back in 2010. (Porirua City Council).

• Tomorrow, When the War Began, due back in December 2013. (Whanaganui District Council).

• Edmonds Cookery Book, due back in May 2013. (Waimate District Council).

• Lili Chases Lost Dreams, due back in 2013. (Clutha District Council)

• Flipping Out by Sienna Mercer, due back in December 2013. (Christchurch City Council).

• A Good King is Hard to Find, due back in 2014. (Auckland City Council).

• Family Food: 130 Delicious Paleo Recipes for Every Day By Pete Evans, due back in 2015. (Central Otago District Council)

• The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny, due back in August 2015. (Manawatu District Council)

• Fate & Philosophy: A Journey Through Life’s Great Questions, due back April 2016. (Hauraki District Council).

• The Successful Job Interview by Claire Sutton, due back August 2016. (Tasman District Council).

• Whales by Sally Morgan and George’s Dragon at the Fire Station both due back in 2019. (Tauranga City Council).

• Police Car by Chris Oxlade, due back in 2020. (Opotiki District Council).

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