Book Returned to Library Over 100 Years Late

Recently, a book that was checked out over 100 years ago was returned to the Saint Paul Public Library! This 1902 edition of Famous Composers, volume II by Nathan Haskell Dole was found by a patron.

When we examined the book—which bears the original Saint Paul Public Library stamp and back pocket card—we discovered several markings that may tell us more about this book’s journey.

The first indication of this book’s journey are two stamps on the back page. One reads June 4, 1914, and the other reads January 17, 1916, which tell us this book was probably entered into the Library’s catalog twice.

It was first added to the library's collection in 1914 when the Saint Paul Public Library was housed in the Market Hall and the Central Library was still being built. The Market Hall burned down in 1915. Virtually the entire library was destroyed, and 160,000 volumes were burned in the fire.

Read about the Market Hall fire in this article from the 1915 Saint Paul Pioneer Press.

However, at the time of the fire nearly 1/3 of the collection was checked out to patrons, which means that this book was probably one of the lucky few that survived! It was most likely re-added to the collection in 1916 ahead of the 1917 opening of the Central Library building.

Read more about the history of the George Latimer Central Library.

The book was checked out several times during its brief time on the Central Library's shelves. The check-out slip in the back of the book indicates that it was most likely last checked out in 1919.

The math on the back card pocket did leave us stumped, though...1928 minus 1791...was someone trying to figure out how old the composer Giacomo Meyerbeer would be if he were alive in 1928? (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was also born in 1791 but is not included in this volume). We may never know!

 We shared a fun news story on our social media accounts and the story quickly piqued the interest of an MPR News reporter who published the story online. From there, the post spread rapidly! In addition to hundreds of likes and shares on social media, the story also garnered attention from news outlets big and small such as: