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Better late than never…

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Do you consider yourself a slow reader? Feeling embarrassed when you receive an overdue notice from your favourite local library? Not to worry, it can always be worse.

According to Jason McElligott, the Marsh’s Library keeper in Dublin, only nine books out of 1.185 borrowed were returned to their rightful shelves over 133 years. Including the latest pleasant surprise, “The Book of Common Prayer”, which found its way back home last week, after 177 years. Courtesy of Rev Roy Byrne, a Monkstown Parish Rector. The reverent was scrolling through an online exhibition “Hunting stolen books” when something caught his eye…

“He was looking at our exhibition, which is on stolen books and books that were nicked from the library and returned over the centuries and he kind of thought ‘hmm, that looks a bit familiar’…he’s the Church of Ireland Rector in Monkstown and he went back on to the shelves in the rectory and he saw one of the books had one of our stamps on it. So, he returned it to us.” – says Mr McElligott.

Good Samaritans like Rev Byrne are urgently needed in other libraries around the world, as this is not the only case of a book wandering around for years or even centuries. For instance, “The Ancient History” by Charles Rollin went missing from The Grace Doherty Library in Danville, Kentucky, in 1854. The prodigal volume still hasn’t come home.

Unlike the Kentucky library, the San Fransicso Library got “lucky” – “40 minutes later” by Francis Hopkinson finally found its way back. In January 2017 Judy Wells and Webb Johnson returned the book their great-grandmother borrowed 100 years earlier.

The award for the most forgetful library user, however goes to.. George Washington! Yes, that’s right, according to the New York Society Library records, “The Law of Nations” by Emer de Vattel has been missing since October 5, 1789. The former president made the book disappear for a whooping 228 years, and still counting. The staff at Washington’s home in Virginia offered to replace the manuscript with another copy of the same edition. The overdue fine, though, were the library to charge it, would amount to $300,000. Now that’s a number that incites to be punctual…

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