Sydney: A first edition Charles Darwin book returned to its origins last week some 122 years late, when it was handed back to the Australian library to which it belongs.
Darwin’s Insectivorous Plants was borrowed from the Camden School of Arts lending library on Sydney’s outskirts sometime in 1889.
But it was only returned to the library, now part of Camden Council’s facilities, earlier this month.
The council has waived the estimated Aus$35,000 (US$37,000) overdue fine clocked up over the near century-and-a-quarter loan, and is puzzling over the book’s history.
“It’s been on a bit of a journey as far as we can tell,” said the council’s Linda Campbell. “Where it’s been we don’t know… maybe down the back of a couch.”
The book had been in the collection of retired veterinarian Ron Hyne for about 50 years, and it was among items he donated to the University of Sydney last month.
The university returned it to the library after noticing its borrowing stamp and the book is now set to be available to the reading public for viewing — although not borrowing.
Hyne said he was not sure how he acquired the book, but thought it could have been given to him by another veterinarian or by a Sydney University academic in the 1950s.
“I’ve been racking my brain as to exactly where the book came from and how long I had it,” he said, adding that he was pleased that it would be available to the public again.
Campbell said the book, which contains several black and white drawings of plants, was in excellent condition considering its age but that no inquiries had been made as to how much it was now worth.
She said the careless borrower of 1889 may have done the library a favour because if it had been kept in the collection, it may have been culled over the years if it had not been popular with readers.