104 years overdue: Book last checked out in 1919 returns to Minnesota library

A library book checked out more than 100 years ago in St. Paul, Minnesota, has finally been returned.

Someone looking through their relative's belongings came across "Famous Composers," a book published in 1902 that had a checkout slip from the St. Paul Public Library showing that it was last borrowed in 1919, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

"There's been a time or two when something has come back, and maybe it has been checked out for 20 or 30 years, but nothing where it looks like it has been out for some 100 years," John Larson, the library's digital coordinator, told The Associated Press.

What will happen to the book now?

That's unclear.

Larson said the book is in fragile condition and that he doubts it will be available for circulation. But he believes the library will keep it.

"It has reached a point where it's not just an old book, it's an artifact. It has a little bit of history to it," he told the AP.

The library is hoping to find the person who returned the book and speak to them but doesn't yet know who that is.

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More about 'Famous Composers'

The second volume of "Famous Composers," by Nathan Haskell Dole, was published in 1902. It explores the lives and works of prominent composers including Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin.

The book only spent a short time on the shelves of the library and had been checked out multiple times leading up to the last time in 1919.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter jokingly said the fine for the overdue book would be $36,000, but that whoever turned it in caught a big break since libraries don't charge for overdue books anymore.

"At the 1919 rate of a penny per day, that would have been a $36k fine," Carter said. "But #SaintPaul is a #FineFreeLibrary system so no charge."

Investigation of the book

According to the Minnesota Public Radio, Larson found that the book was cataloged in 1914, just before a fire destroyed 160,000 books in the library's collection in the Old Market Hall.

Almost a third of the library's books had already been borrowed during the fire incident. Hence, "Famous Composers" was one of the fortunate literary works to have survived the blaze.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 104-year overdue book returned to St. Paul, Minnesota library