It’s not actually that uncommon (here at Marylebone Library we get two or three a year) but it’s always interesting to receive a decades overdue library book.
It’s rare to be given a background story though, so we’re left wondering… Was the borrower suddenly struck by a crisis of conscience after 50 years? Was a conscientious relative doing the house clearing?
Sadly we don’t know who borrowed the Complete Poetry of Catullus in 1965 as we no longer have reader records from the pre-digital age. But there is much else worth noting on the date label:
The book was bought when St Marylebone was a separate council and nobody had yet got round to changing the date label to a shiny new Westminster one (perhaps if the book had been out for some time and renewed several times, nobody had a chance to do it). Fines were a penny a day (for comparison, the Daily Mirror, now 60p, then cost 4p). Opening hours were actually shorter – though there was Saturday evening opening until 8.00pm (no doubt highly unpopular with staff!). There was no Sunday opening at all.
The telephone numbers (eg: WELbeck 2629 for renewals) may be a bit of a puzzle to those not old enough to remember dials on phones. See this informative site for how it all worked, with some information about the most famous old time telephone number of all.
Most intriguing is the instruction to tell the Librarian if you had come into contact with any infectious disease. I’ve never been able to find out what the Librarian was meant to do with this information except put on a mask and recommend you see your doctor, and I was told many years ago by a very old colleague that books which had been contact with the lurgy were left on an open window sill for a few days and put back on the shelf. What I never found out is if anyone was actually fined for spreading plague throughout the borough via the medium of a chicken-poxy Agatha Christie.
Anyway, whoever returned Catullus to his rightful home, we’re very grateful. If you’d like to try his poetry for yourself, we have several volumes available. But please bring them back!