Almost 100 years later, overdue book returned to Napa Valley library

A book checked out from the St. Helena Free Library in 1927 was returned on May 10, 2023.  ( St. Helena Public Library)

A library book checked out almost 100 years ago has been finally returned to its home at the St. Helena Public Library, bringing weight to the old adage "better late than never."

The book, titled "A Family History of the United States" by Benson Lossing, was published in 1881 and borrowed from the library in February 1927.

SEE ALSO: Bay Area author Iris Chang's 'Rape of Nanking' brought 'forgotten holocaust' to the West

SEE ALSO: Lizzo headlines Bottlerock, refuses to let unsettling signs upset her

It appeared the book passed through some family history of its own while away.

"The book was returned by Jim Perry of Napa. His guess is that his late wife, Sandra’s, grandfather (John McCormick) got the book for his two daughters," Library Director Chris Kreiden shared with KTVU. "The book had been at the McCormick family ranch until he and Sandra moved to Napa a number of years ago," she added.

Kreiden said that Perry found the book while recently going through some boxes. He noticed that it belonged to the library, and on May 10, he dropped it off at the library’s front desk. 

On the inside of the book was attached information about borrowing policies which clearly were not followed including, "This book may be kept two weeks."

The book titled "A Family History of the United States" by Benson Lossing was published in 1881 and checked out from the St. Helena Free Library in 1927. ( St. Helena Public Library)

It’s estimated that the overdue charge could have amounted to roughly $1,700 if the library's 5 cents-a-day late fee had remained in place. 

"The Library did go fine free in 2019," Kreiden explained, noting, "though even before that our maximum fine was $10."

The old book, not in the best shape, will not be returned to circulation. "The book is literally falling apart," Kreiden said.

But the story behind the artifact has been circulated widely, and the library has decided to put it on display in its front entryway for those who want to get a view of the history book with some local history of its own. 

The 96-year overdue library book has been placed on display at the St. Helena Public Library in St. Helena, Calif.  ( St. Helena Public Library)