Book and hourglass

10 of the Tardiest Book Borrowers and Their Overdue Books

The return journey to the library can be an extremely difficult task for some book borrowers. When procrastination kicks in, borrowed materials end up sitting on the counter as a form of dust collection service. Ever wondered how long is too long to return library books? Take a look at this list of the tardiest borrowers in history and frown upon their decades-long overdues.


10. The Woman in the White House by Marianne Means

Borrowed from: Tompkins Square Library in New York, NY

Years Overdue: 38

Woman in the White House

Via Amazon


On Thursday, August 10, a middle-aged man strolled into Tomkins Square Library for the purpose of returning a book that has been past due for 38 years. As soon as he dropped off Marianne Means’ ‘Woman in the White House’, he left without making further comments and dodged his fine.


9. The Real Book About Snakes by Jane Sherman

Borrowed from: The Champaign County Library in Urbana, Ohio 
Years Overdue: 41


Via OpenLibrary

Via OpenLibrary


Loaned out on July 17, 1972, ‘The Real Book About Snakes’ was not returned until 2013. Along with the book in the mail is where you’d find a check and an apologetic note that says:

“Sorry I’ve kept this book so long, but I’m a really slow reader! I’ve enclosed my fine of $299.30 (41 years, 2 cents a day). Once again, my apologies!”


8. Days and Deeds: A Book of Verse for Children’s Reading and Speaking compiled by Burton and Elizabeth Stevenson

Borrowed from: The Kewanee Public Library in Kewanee, Illinois

Years Overdue: 48


Via Amazon

Via Amazon


Lent out to Emily Canellos-Simms, the poetry collection, ‘Days and Deeds’, is the book that sat the World Guinness Record for the highest overdue fine. Although the book was due on April 15, 1955, Canellos-Simms only found it at her mother’s house 47 years later and paid the library with an accumulated fine of $345.14.


7. The Fire of Francis Xavier by Arthur R. McGratty

Borrowed from: The New York Public Library, New York, NY

Years Overdue: 55


Via NY Daily News

Via NY Daily News


Even though the required fine for the overdue would only cost as much as the book did, the borrower did not have the courage to face his shame and complete the return in person. Instead, he mailed his copy discreetly 55 years too late and avoided a face-to-face confrontation.


6. The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

Borrowed from: The Rugby Library in Warwick, England 

Years Overdue: 63


Via Amazon

Via Amazon


This book made a safe return to the Rugby Library and spared the patron of a £4000 penalty. Phew.


5. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Borrowed from: The Chicago Public Library in Chicago, Illinois 

Years Overdue:  78


Abe Books

Via Abe Books


When the Chicago Public Library launched its amnesty program to allow book returns without pay, this rare edition of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ washed up 78 years past its due date. According to Reuters, the tardy book borrower, Harlean Hoffman Vision, questioned her probable incarceration and was extremely relived to discover that not only will she not go to jail, she did not have to pay a single cent.


4. Forty Minutes Late and Other Stories by F. Hopkinson Smith

Borrowed from: San Francisco Public Library, California

Years Overdue: 99


Via the SF Gate

Via the SF Chronicle


Ironically named ‘Forty Minutes Late’, this book was returned 99 years after its due date. Nevertheless, lucky for Webb Johnson, his significant overdue required no fine upon return. The book, a collection of short stories, was borrowed by Johnson’s great-grandmother in 1917. Now in 2017, the current rate of 10-cents-a-day would roll to $3,650.


3. Insectivorous Plants by Charles Darwin

Borrowed from: The Camden School of Arts Lending Library in Sydney, Australia

Years Overdue: 122


Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia


In 1898, an Australian edition of Charles Darwin’s insightful book on bug-eating plants was borrowed but not returned until July 22, 2011.


2. The Ancient History of the Egyptians, Carthaginians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Macedonians, and Grecians (volume II) by Charles Rollin

Borrowed from: The Grace Doherty Library in Danville, Kentucky

Years Overdue: 150 (estimated)


Via Goodreads

Via Goodreads


After more than 150 years, this library book earned a fortunate return to the Kentucky college library. Thanks to a student intern, this second installment to a volume of collection called ‘Ancient Civilization’ was found at a nearby school for the deaf and given back to the official owner.


1. The Law of Nations by Emmerich de Vattel

Borrowed from: The New York Society Library in New York, NY
Years Overdue: 221


Via the Lawbook Exchange

Via the Lawbook Exchange


When George Washington borrowed this legal manifesto during his fifth month of Presidency, little did the librarians know that it would take more than two centuries to see the book return. For 221 years, this was stored at Washington’s Virginia home until it was finally returned in 2010.