As Isabella Heaton sifted through her late aunt’s belongings, she came across an aged book whose worn appearance likely reflected its prolonged stay in Heaton’s aunt’s possession.
The book, an edition of Blackwood’s Magazine, was checked out on May 15th, 1893. Heaton found, and returned the book, 124 years later.
As if the overdue status of the library book wasn’t bizarre enough, it was checked out from the Rockford Public Library in Rockford, Illinois and ended up in Heaton’s possession in Gloucestershire, England.
The book once again found itself embarking on a long voyage when Heaton decided to mail it back to the Rockford Public Library. When the library staff received the long overdue book on January 26, 2018, they were shocked to say the least.
The library shared the unexpected tale on Facebook and their response was priceless.
Heaton sent the packaged book along with a handwritten note (check out that beautiful handwriting!), stating the following:
I’ve been sorting through some books left to me by my long deceased Aunt. She was a wonderful book binder and collected a whole assortment of books, some out of interest, others to restore. In amongst them I came across the book enclosed. I feel compelled to return it to your library!
The library is reportedly working on researching the book’s history. Though they have confirmed that the book does indeed belong to one of their collections, their oldest book collection, in fact, how it ended up in the hands of Heaton’s aunt is still unclear.
“It may have been withdrawn from our collection and sold to the aunt in a sale, or I don’t know, I wish it could talk and tell its story,” Bridget Finn, Rockford Public Library Director of Marketing, told WIFR.
How the book ended up 4,000 miles away from Rockford and why Heaton’s aunt didn’t return it (or if she was truly the one who checked it out at all) remains a mystery. Perhaps like many ibrary patrons, Heaton’s aunt simply forgot (or presumed that she lost) the book. Perhaps she simply couldn’t part with it. Perhaps she purchased it from another patron who themselves has an interesting tale.
While the answers remain uncertain, the situation certainly shines a light on the fascinating yet undisclosed stories behind the stories we pick up.
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