Offbeat

By Mollie Mansfield


A library were left stunned when a book that was overdue by 73 years arrived in the post – but the renter was left with no late fees.

Silver Spring Library, Maryland, US, were shocked when they received a copy of children’s novel ‘The Postman’ by Charlotte Kuh from 1929 in the post last week, February 5.

The book, which was initially rented out from the library in 1946, was accompanied by a letter apologising for returning the book 73 years late.

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The anonymous writer of the letter explained it was their mother who rented the book to read to them as a child and that the book was overlooked when the family relocated, and therefore misplaced until now.

According to the library guidelines, there is a 35 cent charge for every day that a book is late – meaning the fine could have reached around $9,000 USD [£6,978].

Lucky for the anonymous returner, though, fines on adult books are capped at $15 [£11.63], and, for children’s books likes this, there are no late fines at all.

Anita Vassallo, Acting Director at Montgomery County Public Libraries, said: “We were delighted to have this lovely little piece of history returned to us.

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“It’s amazing that it’s almost 100 years old, but is still in fair condition, and it’s also a little window into life in the 1920s.

“We were not still sending correspondence to try and get the book returned.

“I don’t know how they would have been tracking who had it back in 1946, but it was probably just declared lost long, long ago.”

The letter that the library received read: “Dear Friends. Please find enclosed a book that came from your collections. The book is overdue, very overdue.

“I apologise for not returning it sooner.

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“My mother borrowed it on my behalf in 1946 when I was only two or three and too young to go to the library all by myself.

“I can guarantee (although I do not remember) that I chose the title. I was that kind of kid.

“We had to move from Washington (Piney Branch Road) to Canada in a big hurry in 1946 and the book was overlooked. Perhaps it was packed or

perhaps I refused to let it go because I loved it so much.

“I treasured this book when I was a kid — the story of how the mail went from the letter box to our front door via many forms of transportation (especially the airplanes and the horses).

“The pneumatic tubes in Berlin fascinated me. And to find such a big difficult word such as “pneumatic” in a little book!

Pic by Caters News

“I have always loved the illustrations by Kurt Wiese. His simple lines give people, and horses and ducks, personality and character.

“The Story About Ping is still a favourite. To this day when I see cormorants in the wild I remind them that they are very lucky not to be forced to catch fish for humans to eat.

“I believe I am not the only one who loved The Postman. After all it was published in 1929 and was in poor shape by 1946, as evidenced by the good old black library tape.

“I am willing to give it up now because there is a copy in the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books in the Toronto Public Library.

Call number LHS X KUH.

“So, I can go there and read The Postman any time I wish.

“Sincerely.”