The library fine for the book’s late return would have been £1,254 at a rate of ten per day.
Nearly 50 years after it was due back, an “antique” Latin book was returned to a London university library.
In the summer of 1974, the book, an 1875 edition of a play called Querolus, was set to be returned to UCL Libraries.
“Don’t throw it out, now that I’ve taken the time and bother to return it,” the anonymous borrower instructed the librarian in a sarcastic note accompanying the overdue book.
“Dear Librarian, I fear this book is 50 years overdue!” read the note.
“Please don’t toss it out now that I’ve gone to the trouble of returning it. By now, it must be considered a ‘antique.'”
When she read the accompanying note, the university librarian’s “jaw dropped.”
When Suzanne Traue returned to the library after 18 months of working from home, she discovered the book, which had been returned anonymously.
She claimed she discovered a stack of books on her desk with no message indicating who sent them or why they were sent to her.
“To be honest, when I saw the padded envelope, my first thought was, ‘Oh no, not another one…,’
“I was pleasantly delighted to find that this book came with a letter, but when I read it, I think my jaw literally dropped.”
The library fine for the book’s late return would have been £1,254 at a rate of 10p per day.
The book is a fifth-century comedy that relates the narrative of a magician attempting to defraud a poor man of his inheritance.
The library had numerous editions of this book, but the one that was returned was a hard copy of the first edition from 1875.
“It is fantastic to witness such commitment from a former user of the UCL Library that they bring back a book after over 50 years,” said Professor Gesine Manuwald, director of the Greek and Latin department.
“Though this book is ‘old’ in the sense that it was published in 1875, it is nonetheless the most current edition of the work in the Teubner series of scholarly editions of ancient Greek and Latin writings.”
Customers are encouraged to return books on time, however, automatic renewals have been in effect since March 2021.
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