As schools start to open in the traditional way, I think about how my friends and I used the school library as a hangout. As I’ve said freely and many times, I was a nerd.
We weren’t studying or reading, though. We were hanging out, talking and goofing off. I don’t remember much studying happening in the library. Despite being nerds, we were not really an intellectual bunch.
Back in my time, which was about 100 years ago, if you actually checked out a book, you needed to remember to return it in a timely fashion or be fined for each day you were late. It was a small fine, but nickels and dimes add up.
Imagine having a book out for 300 years.
It happened in Sheffield, England.
The Rev. Canon Keith Farrow, who has served as vice dean and canon missioner at Sheffield Cathedral since 2014, said the book, a 1704 printing of “The Faith and Practice of a Church of England Man,” arrived in the mail recently with a note.
“It has come back to us because a lady in Wales, whose godmother passed away, found it amongst her belongings. In her will was the bequest that it should return to Sheffield Cathedral,” Farrow said. “Inside, it’s actually dated 1709 and it’s very beautifully written, it says ‘this book belongs to ye lending library at Sheffield church,’ which is Sheffield Cathedral,” Farrow said. “So this has obviously been taken out of the lending library and not returned.”
I wonder what the punishment for having an overdue book was in the 1700s? I imagine it was something like a sheep for every month. I hope it wasn’t something as serious as time in the stocks, which would be humiliating as well as uncomfortable.
Thank goodness the library closed in the 1800s, so no one will have to answer for what was likely a simple oversight.
But Farrow said he wouldn’t charge the family a fine, given that the book has been returned. He said he was just happy to have the book back.
He did, however, joke the overdue fee for the book could buy the cathedral “a new roof.” I’m sure it would, if payment wasn’t made in livestock.
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