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110-year overdue book returned to library: 'Mysteries in history'

Better late than never?
Boise Public Library
/ Source: TODAY

A book was returned to the Boise Public Library more than a century after it was checked out.

The "New Chronicles of Rebecca," a 1907 novel by Kate Douglas Wiggin, was checked out of Boise's old Carnegie Library on Nov. 8, 1911. The book, which was a sequel to the classic novel "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm," wasn't seen again until it was dropped off this week at the Garden Valley District Library, where it was then transferred to the Boise Public Library.

In a statement to NBC News, the Boise Public Library said, “New Chronicles of Rebecca - originally checked out from Boise's Carnegie Public Library in 1910! — was recently returned. With a fine of two cents per day for 111 years, whoever checked out this book would owe $803 — thank goodness the Boise Public Libraries are now fine free!”

The returned book is still in great condition, according to library staff.
The returned book is still in great condition, according to library staff. Boise Public Library

After library employees realized how old the book was, they began to look deeper into its origins to figure out where it could have come from.

“The checkout desk noticed that it was rather old and it didn't have any current markings, so they looked into it,” Anne Marie Martin, a library assistant at the Boise Public Library, told NBC affiliate KTVB-10.

On the inside cover of the book there is a note, still intact, that reads, “Books may be kept two weeks without renewal unless otherwise labeled; a fine of two cents per day is imposed on overdue books.”

Now that the book has been returned, the library plans on keeping the copy in their History room for visitors to come look at and read from, but it will not be able to be checked out again. Though there may be books that are older than the copy of “New Chronicles of Rebecca,” the book's 110 year disappearance and surprising return makes the novel that much more special.

A card shows that the book was last checked out in 1911.
A card shows that the book was last checked out in 1911. Boise Public Library

“Unless somebody wants to come forward and be like, 'Hey, this was my grandmother and she moved to wherever and was always embarrassed she hadn't returned this book or something,'" Martin explained. "It would be great if we could find out what happened, but that said, sometimes there are just mysteries in history."

Even over 100 years later, Martin said the book was in “very good shape" and the copy of the novel still has crisp pages and the words and photos were legible and clear.

"I think the condition would be very good to excellent," Martin said.

Despite the fact that the book, in theory, would have racked up $800 in late fees today, Martin assured that those high fees would have never been charged. Even before the library's late fee policy had changed, Martin said, “The book was originally $1.50, so that would have been the cost we would have charged. We never charge more than the cost of the book for the fine."