Good thing he didn't hack that box open with a carpet knife!
March 29, 2012 1:20 PM   Subscribe

In 2007, a 15th-century illuminated manuscript returned to the George Peabody Library in Baltimore after going missing over 40 years ago.

Anonymously, in a small cardboard box sent by media mail which probably added a few months' worth of overdue fees right there. The book had been lost for so long, librarians didn't even realize it originally came from their collection until a graduate student got interested in it.
posted by Quietgal (12 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Written in the margin: "These lines were tedious and painful to copy. Were this book stolen, It would be a fitting justice from God."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:24 PM on March 29, 2012 [8 favorites]

Relevant to my interests!
posted by The Whelk at 1:25 PM on March 29, 2012

I am pretty sure this matches up to an anonymous AskMe.
posted by shothotbot at 1:48 PM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

[The Dutch manuscript] was created for private devotion. It ended up in a public library where people could see it and appreciate it and use it. But it went missing, so some- body sort of reclaimed its privacy—and fortuitously it came back.

Huh, it does sort of make sense to take the private devotional home and keep it. Obligatory perhaps, even as much—to some who might consider it—as returning your books to the library.
posted by carsonb at 1:50 PM on March 29, 2012

Uh, Whelk, if you mean you're thinking about how to return those priceless manuscripts you heisted, I'd suggest springing for Priority Mail. Tends to be treated more carefully in transit.
posted by Quietgal at 1:57 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am sure they could trace that back to the sender if they wanted to. Since the post-9/11 and anthrax era, the USPS no longer accepts parcels without video surveillance. They can track back the barcode and link it to the timecode in the video.

But I am sure they're just glad to have the book back.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:11 PM on March 29, 2012

Quietgal, I was thinking the exact same thing: really, a priceless book sent media mail? The friggin' post office couldn't even get my parents' holiday package to them using First Class!
posted by smirkette at 2:30 PM on March 29, 2012

I ship hundreds of books a month, sadly packing them into their little boxes and bags with yards of tape, and the thought of sending a manuscript through media mail makes me wish my library had a bar, because I need a drink.

On the plus side, hooray for its return, and for the USPS coming through on that one!
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:35 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

On the plus side, hooray for its return, and for the USPS coming through on that one!

Ah, but how many didn't make it back?
posted by davejay at 3:07 PM on March 29, 2012

i've done this before
posted by camdan at 3:56 PM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

i've done this before

Who hasn't?
posted by ellF at 7:34 PM on March 29, 2012

>i've done this before

Who hasn't?

LOL. Just a few years ago, I was sorting out some old storage boxes and I found some books I checked out of my university's library just before I dropped out, must have been some time around 1977 or so. I remember I got charged an insane amount of money for not returning them. So I decided to go to the library and return them in person. I explained the situation to the student librarian, she was surprised and said she would go get the head librarian. So I explained it again to the head librarian, she said, "oh hold on, I'll go look it up."

When I checked out the book, I wrote the catalog number on a McBee Card, and the librarian used a hand driven machine to stamp the card against an inked plate. But it was many years ago when the library converted to a paperless system and a computerized card catalog.

Before I could scarcely consider this, the head librarian returned with a McBee Card. I noticed some of the edges were notched, which was how they sorted the cards for due date. She showed me the card and asked if that was my signature. And indeed, it was the card I had filled out, so long ago. I was astonished. I asked her how the hell did they manage to keep this card for decades, and keep it where she could locate it in a couple of minutes. She smiled and said, "We're librarians, we keep everything."

Then, one more surprise. The librarian said she would credit my university account for the amount I was charged for the book. I asked her how she could find records of that. She said it was written on the back of the card, and she showed it to me. I told her my university account had been dead for years, she said they would credit the account and at the end of the month I could request a check for the surplus in my account. And that was exactly what happened. I did not expect a credit for these books, I was just going to return them, but the refund was a bonus, and the head librarian seemed to truly enjoy dispensing the money (in inflated, worthless dollars by now).

I had to return several other books to the Engineering and Art libraries. These were really expensive books so I expected the same credit to my account. But the librarians said just dump them in the return slot. I refused because I was sure they would just conveniently forget to credit me. I said the head librarian at the main library gave me a credit for books like this, and she should look into it for me. The librarians were surly and did not want to do this, but I insisted they should check with the head librarian. So they called her and only then did they reluctantly look up my books. They refused to credit one book because it was obsolete (actually, by now it was a historic, vintage computer manual, I hated to part with it) and credited me for the other. But her records were sloppy (i.e. nonexistent) and she just took a guess at the amount.

The Art library was a little different. I explained that I had been banned for life for not returning books (like this one) promptly, and that this was the final book I ever checked out, and it lead to the ban. But that branch librarian had died recently so I hoped the ban died with him. She laughed, and looked up the book, and found the amount to credit me. She was surprised because it was now a rare art book, I was charged about $80 (big big money back then) but now it was worth hundreds of dollars. She thanked me for returning it, and lifted my lifetime ban.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:25 PM on March 29, 2012 [8 favorites]

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