Library book returned after 118 years in New Zealand

Nadine Carroll
·2-min read

A book has been returned to a New Zealand library 118 years after it was checked out.

The Earl of Derby by George Saintsbury was borrowed from the Newtown Library in Wellington, on New Zealand’s North Island, in 1902 and somehow found its way to a second-hand store in Sydney's northern beaches where Barbara Schmelzer found it.

The keen bookbinder decided to give the book, first published in 1892, an updated look and rebound it before mailing it back to Wellington City Libraries.

The Earl of Derby was borrowed from the Newtown Library in Wellington in 1902 and found its way to an op shop on Sydney's Northern Beaches in 2020.
The Earl of Derby was borrowed from the Newtown Library in Wellington in 1902 and found its way to an op shop on Sydney's Northern Beaches in 2020. Source: Facebook Wellington City Libraries

“Our librarians were shocked yesterday (Wednesday) to discover the return of an item from 1902! Master Bookbinder Barbara Schmelzer having found an old Newtown Library book at an op shop on Sydney’s Northern Beaches rebound the item and returned it,” the library shared to Facebook on Thursday.

Ms Schmelzer said she found the book in the collectables section of the Lifeline store where she volunteers.

She said it was in decent condition, but was not particularly valuable.

“I thought the library might want to have it back, so I decided to fix it up a little bit and make it look nice for its return back to New Zealand,” she told news outlet Stuff.

Wellington City Libraries were so pleased by the return they decided to look the other way when it came to the strict late fees printed inside the cover of the book.

“In this instance we have decided to waive one penny per day fine ("for the first week and two pence per day thereafter"),” the library wrote.

“This book may have been one of the original collection. Newtown Library opened in 1902, and is considered to be the oldest branch library in New Zealand,” Newtown Library spokesperson Sharon Macintyre told Stuff.

The library has said they would keep the book on display for curious book lovers.

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