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Book returned to St. Paul Library after more than 100 years — one of few that survived devastating 1915 fire

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A book that was checked out of a Minnesota library in the early 1900s has finally been returned — and may be one of the few surviving tomes from a 1915 fire.

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Librarians at St. Paul Public Library were shocked to receive a 1902 copy of “Famous Composers vol. 2” that had been checked out of the institution more than 100 years ago.

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The Nathan Haskell Dole book was found by a patron in Hennepin County, who had been sorting through their mother’s belongings and came across it, according to a tweet from the library.

Librarians believe it may be one of the few books that surprised the 1915 fire at the library’s old building that was housed in Old Market Hall.

Around the time, one-third of the library’s collection had been checked out and “Famous Composers” is believed to have been among them.

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Around 160,000 titles were lost in the blaze, according to the library.

“Virtually the entire library was destroyed,” it said in a tweet. “This book was probably one of the lucky few that survived!”

The book on a table.
Librarians at Saint Paul Public Library were shocked to receive a 1902 copy of Famous Composers vol 2 that had been checked out of the institution more than 100 years ago

Two stamps on the book indicated the volume had been entered into the library’s system twice — once in June 1914 and again in January 1916. The book was “likely re-added to the collection in 1916 ahead of the 1917 opening of the Central Library building,” it said.

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“Famous Composers” was checked several times during its brief stay at the Central Library location, and was more than likely last checked out in 1919.

St. Paul’s Digital Library Coordinator, John Larson, said it was the most overdue book he had seen returned in his 25 years of employment there, according to the Guardian.

“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,” he said. “Maybe once every five or 10 years we will see something that is incredibly overdue.”

Although the library no longer charges late fees, if it had — at a 1919 rate of 1 cent a day — it could have amounted to $36,000.

The library stopped charging fees in 2019, according to the Guardian.

Even though the book finally made its way home after more than a century, “Famous Composer” will more than likely enter its retirement period due to its delicate condition, Larson said, adding that the library will hold on to the volume.

“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,” Larson said.

A New York library had a surprising return of its own recently when an overdue book was sent in nearly 90 years to the day it was checked out — and only incurred a surprisingly low $5 late fee.

A copy of Joseph Conrad’s 1925 book “Youth and Two Other Stories” was returned to the Larchmont Public Library in Westchester County last month, just before the 90-year anniversary of its Oct. 11, 1933, due date.

A woman cleaning out her stepfather’s belongings found the book and mailed it back at the end of September, Larchmont librarian Caroline Cunningham told The Post at the time.

Larchmont patrons are hit with a 20-cent charge every day a book is past due, but the maximum fine is $5, the library said in a Facebook post.  

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New York Post Original Article

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