STAFF at a Yorkshire library got an unexpected blast from the past when a book was returned to them – more than 100 years overdue.
The copy of The Siege of Troy and The Wanderings of Ulysses by Charles Henry Hanson is thought to have been taken out from Armley Library in Leeds some time between 1883 and the early 1900s.
It has now been returned to the city’s library service by the grandson of Rusholme Hutton, the man who originally borrowed the book.
Coun Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s executive member for communities, said: “We would really like to thank the grandson of Mr Hutton for returning this little piece of Armley Library history to us which is greatly appreciated.
“While as a service we would always ask people to please return their books on time to our libraries in order to avoid paying a fine, this case is certainly an exceptional circumstance and not something we experience every day.
“It goes without saying therefore that we have not looked into the payment of any late fine following the return of this particular book!”
Library staff began trying to pinpoint the date the book – first printed in 1883 – was borrowed after it was posted to them by Mr Hutton’s grandson, who had inherited it following the death of a family member.
Their efforts were helped by an insert in its pages that had been written by James Yates, who served as city public librarian in Leeds from 1870 to 1897.
The insert indicates that the book was borrowed from Providence School, which was in Armley and until 1902 acted as the home of the local library.
In a sign of the times, the library only operated during the evenings to fit in with mill opening hours.
“Trying to estimate the date when the book was originally taken out has been really interesting for our staff, and to think that it most probably was taken out before 1900 is quite amazing,” said Coun Coupar.
Now in a somewhat bruised and battered condition, the returned book will be on display at Leeds’s Chapel Allerton Library until it completes its long-delayed journey to the present day Armley Library.
Fines for overdue library books in Leeds are currently pegged at 22p per day, although the council stresses that payment plans for late returns can be worked out with service users if so required.
The insert in the title taken out by Mr Hutton all those years ago reveals a more rigid set of rules, saying: “Borrowers detaining Books beyond the time allowed (14 days) for reading will be fined ONE PENNY per WEEK or portion of a WEEK for the first FORTNIGHT, when the Fine will be increased to TWOPENCE per week until the Work is returned.”
The insert also warns: “All Books borrowed from the Library must be returned on or before the 30th of each SEPTEMBER, on pain of losing the privilege of borrowing in future.”