Novel is returned to library after 73 YEARS and £3,000 fine is waived

Is this Britain’s most overdue book? Novel is returned to library after 73 YEARS… but the £3,000 fine is waived in amnesty on missing literature

  • A library book is returned after 73 years, racking up almost £3,000 in fines 
  • The American adventure novel Stately Timber was due to be returned in 1948
  • It was sent by post from the Scottish Highlands by original borrower’s daughter

Like most library books, it was supposed to be returned after 14 days.

Instead, it stayed with its borrower’s family for 73 years, racking up almost £3,000 in fines.

Now after an amnesty on late return fees, what is believed to be Britain’s most overdue book has finally been sent back.

The American adventure novel Stately Timber by Rupert Hughes was due to be returned to the Central Library in Dunfermline, Fife, on November 6, 1948.

American adventure novel Stately Timber (pictured) by Rupert Hughes is returned to library after 73 years

Librarians were astonished when, more than seven decades later, it was sent by post from Cromarty in the Scottish Highlands by the original borrower’s daughter.

She explained in a letter that her late father had lived in Thornton, Fife, in 1948 and had borrowed the book when he was 20 years old.

She said she did not know whether he had simply forgotten to return it or chose to keep it, adding: ‘I find it fascinating to see the dates of when this book was taken out, during the latter years of World War Two, and that the war ended between stamps marked by librarians.

‘Life goes on around momentous historical events.’ Donna Dewar, of what is now Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries, said: ‘I burst out laughing when I opened the parcel – I couldn’t believe it.

‘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 a whopping £2,847.’

Librarians were astonished when, more than seven decades later, it was sent by post from Cromarty in the Scottish Highlands by the original borrower’s daughter

A note on the inside cover of the novel says: ‘This book may be retained for 14 days. The librarian is authorised to levy fines on readers who lose or damage books, or keep them beyond the time allowed.’

Christine McLean, cultural heritage chief in Fife, said: ‘We’re thrilled to have received it… and we look forward to finding a special place to display the book – and the story of its journey – in our local studies section.’

The Guinness world record for the most overdue library book is held by one that was returned to Sidney Sussex College at the University of Cambridge after being borrowed in 1668 and given back 288 years later.

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