UNITED STATES NEWS

Extremely overdue book returned to Massachusetts library 119 years later

Jul 7, 2023, 9:00 PM

BOSTON (AP) — On Feb. 14, 1904, someone curious about the emerging possibilities of a key force of nature checked out James Clerk Maxwell’s “An Elementary Treatise on Electricity” from the New Bedford Free Public Library.

It would take 119 years and the sharp eyes of a librarian in West Virginia before the scientific text finally found its way back to the Massachusetts library.

The discovery occurred when Stewart Plein, the curator of rare books at West Virginia University Libraries, was sorting through a recent donation of books.

Plein found the treatise and noticed it had been part of the collection at the New Bedford library and, critically, had not been stamped “Withdrawn,” indicating that while extremely overdue, the book had not been discarded.

Plein contacted Jodi Goodman, the special collections librarian in New Bedford, to alert her to the find.

“This came back in extremely good condition,” New Bedford Public Library Director Olivia Melo said Friday. “Someone obviously kept this on a nice bookshelf because it was in such good shape and probably got passed down in the family.”

The treatise was first published in 1881, two years after Maxwell’s death in 1879, although the cranberry-colored copy now back at the New Bedford library is not considered a rare edition of the work, Melo said.

The library occasionally receives books as much as 10 or 15 years overdue, but nothing anywhere close to a century or more, she said.

The treatise was published at a time when the world was still growing to understand the possibilities of electricity. In 1880, Thomas Edison received a historic patent embodying the principles of his incandescent lamp.

When the book was last in New Bedford, the nation was preparing for its second modern World Series, incumbent Republican President Theodore Roosevelt was on track to win another term, Wilbur and Orville Wright had conducted their first airplane flight just a year before and New York City was celebrating its first subway line.

The discovery and return of the book is a testament to the durability of the printed word, especially in a time of computerization and instant access to unfathomable amounts of information, Melo said.

“The value of the printed book is it’s not digital, it’s not going to disappear. Just holding it, you get the sense of someone having this book 120 years ago and reading it, and here it is in my hands,” she said. “It is still going to be here a hundred years from now. The printed book is always going to be valuable.”

The New Bedford library has a 5-cent-per-day late fee. At that rate, someone returning a book overdue by 119 years would face a hefty fee of more than $2,100. The good news is the library’s late fee limit maxes out at $2.

Another lesson of the find, according to Melo? It’s never too late to return a library book.

United States News

People wait for the start on the first day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Foru...

Associated Press

Donald Trump set to make vice presidential pick; Rubio and Burgum reportedly told they’re not it

Donald Trump is expected to announce his vice presidential pick on Monday, the first day of the Republican National Convention.

26 minutes ago

FILE - Former NFL football quarterback Brett Favre speaks with reporters prior to his induction to ...

Associated Press

A Mississippi judge removes 1 of Brett Favre’s lawyers in a civil case over misspent welfare money

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi judge has removed one of the attorneys representing retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre in a state civil lawsuit that seeks to recover welfare money that was supposed to help some of the poorest residents in the U.S. but went to projects pushed by wealthy and well-connected people. Favre is […]

1 hour ago

Assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump explained...

Serena O'Sullivan

Trump assassination attempt reflects political tensions in Arizona and beyond, experts say

The assassination attempt of former President Donald Trump reminded Arizona voters of what happens when political threats come to fruition.

1 hour ago

FILE - Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference at the Federal Res...

Associated Press

Powell says Federal Reserve is more confident inflation is slowing to its target

WASHINGTON (AP) — Chair Jerome Powell said Monday that the Federal Reserve is becoming more convinced that inflation is headed back to its 2% target and said the Fed would cut rates before the pace of price increases actually reached that point. “We’ve had three better readings, and if you average them, that’s a pretty […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Herring are unloaded from a fishing boat in Rockland, Maine, July 8, 2015. Several commercia...

Associated Press

New England fishermen sentenced in complex herring fraud case

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Several commercial fishermen in New England have been sentenced in a fraud scheme that centered on a critically important species of bait fish and that prosecutors described as complex and wide-ranging. The fishermen were sentenced for “knowingly subverting commercial fishing reporting requirements” in a scheme involving Atlantic herring, prosecutors said in […]

1 hour ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump addresses the crowd at a campaign e...

Associated Press

What to know about the attempt on Trump’s life and its aftermath

The FBI is still trying to determine a motive behind Saturday’s attempt to assassinate former President Donald Trump, while the tone of this week’s Republican convention in Milwaukee likely will be dominated by the violence. A former fire chief who was killed at Trump’s Pennsylvania rally is being remembered as a “man of conviction.” The […]

2 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

Extremely overdue book returned to Massachusetts library 119 years later