Governments' Lighter Side

A really overdue library book

It's returned after 55 years

It may be the most overdue library book ever – 55 years late, according to officials at the New York Public Library. But as the Daily News reports, the delinquent borrower did the right thing, returning the book this week wrapped in a plain brown envelope with a check for $100 tucked inside, for all those late fees.

The copy of “Fire of Francis Xavier” was checked out of the Fort Washington branch library in upper Manhattan on April 10, 1958, according to the old-fashioned check-out card tucked in the book’s flap. Library officials say their records don’t go back to 1958, so they can’t say who borrowed the book more than five decades ago.

The library won’t release the name on the $100 check. But officials say the check more than covers any fines.

It must have been a good read, to keep the book for 55 years. Written by Arthur R. McGratty, it is the biography of the 16thCentury Jesuit missionary and Catholic saint Francis Xavier. He is considered to be a patron saint of Roman Catholic missionaries in foreign lands.

But the anonymous borrower could have gotten the book more cheaply than $100. A copy goes for $48.95 on Amazon, plus it’s eligible for free super saver shipping. A seller on ebay is offering a 1stedition of the 295-page tome for $32, guaranteed in “very fine condition.”

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 11, 2013

I think you miss the point. The penitent wasn't just returning the book, which is all that another copy from Amazon would have done. He/she already had a copy, the original one. The penance was to pay the fine that was owed, together with a dozen Hail Marys. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. By the way, what would the daily fines, over that 55 year period, have added up to?

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Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008 graduate of Furman University...
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