Book Borrowed in 1919 Finally Returns to Library

'Famous Composers Vol. 1' had already cheated destruction once
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2023 2:05 PM CST
Book Borrowed in 1919 Finally Returns to Library
"Famous Composers” book, which was recently returned to the library in St. Paul, Minn. The tome turned up while someone was sorting through a relative’s belongings. The St. Paul Public Library checkout slip shows it was last borrowed in 1919.   (Claire Huber/St. Paul Public Library via AP)

If the St. Paul Public Library was that way, somebody would be facing a major penalty for returning a book 103 years late, the city's mayor joked. "At the 1919 rate of a penny per day, that would have been a $36k fine," tweeted Melvin Carter, whose math is a bit off. But the Minnesota city has a fine-free policy, so Famous Composers Vol. 2 by Nathan Haskell Dole is back in the library's collection without litigation, the Pioneer Press reports. The resident of Hennepin County came across the book while sorting their mother's possessions. The slip on the back of the volume shows that it was last checked out in 1919, per MPR News.

The book might not have made it to that point. The slip also documents that it was checked out in 1914, when Market Hall housed the library. That building burned down in 1915, along with two-thirds of the collection—everything that wasn't checked out at the time. "If this book had been on the shelves, it probably would have burned," the library's Facebook page says. It probably was back before the new library building opened in 1917, per the Pioneer Press. There's no word on whether Dole's Famous Composers Vol. 1 was lost in the fire, though it has been reprinted and is available. (More libraries stories.)

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