Better late than never.
A California man returned a library book a century past its due date, according to a report.
Jim Perry dropped the deteriorated and fraying 1892 copy of “A Family History of the United States” off at St. Helena Public Library, roughly 20 miles west of Santa Rosa, earlier this month.
“This is an old book that’s been in our family for five generations,” Perry told the Washington Post he said to the front desk, assuming the library would be interested in keeping a relic of history.
It turns out the book by historian Benson Lossing was likely part of the St. Helen Library’s original collection and may have been part of the inventory at another former location — the nearby Carnegie Building, which was built in 1908.
The textbook — which predates film, airplanes and highways — had been checked out by someone in Perry’s wife’s family in 1927, the library found out.
After doing some digging, Perry figured it was probably borrowed by his wife’s grandfather, John McCormick, who might have wanted the book to start teaching his two young daughters about American history.
“This is the oldest one I’ve ever seen, definitely,” said Chris Kreiden, the library’s director. “I mean we’ve had things [checked out for] two or three years, maybe five, but never anything quite this long.”
Perry said the book had been sitting in boxes in his family’s home for the last few years and had even made the move to Napa with him in 2015.
After rediscovering the history book during a bout of spring cleaning, Perry decided it was time to return it to its rightful owners.
“I didn’t know how special it was,” Perry said.
Luckily for Perry, St. Helen’s Public Library stopped charging the late fees in 2019 — meaning he won’t owe the $1,700 bill he inherited from his grandfather-in-law.
The piece of history, which Kreiden said is “falling apart,” now lives in a preserved in display case near the library’s entrance beside pictures of the reading room and the Carnegie Building.
The fragile book is flipped open to its back cover to reveal the original return-date stamp: Feb. 21, 1927.
The textbook may soon be moved to an archival box or be given to the local historical society for further preservation, according to Kreiden.
“It’s never too late to return your library book,” Kreiden said.
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