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Remember the horror of realising you’ve kept a library book past its due date? Well, imagine realising you’ve kept one 221 years longer than you should have. Here, we’re taking a look at 6 of the most ridiculously overdue books that were ever returned to libraries – who knows how many even older ones are sitting in bookshelves around the world!

6. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

While sorting through her late mother’s belongings, Harlean Hoffman Vision found a rare edition of this iconic novel originally borrowed from the Chicago Public Library and vowed to return it. “She kept saying, ‘You’re not going to arrest me?’ and we said, ‘No, we’re so happy you brought it back,’” recalled the library’s marketing director, Ruth Lednicer.

5. Master of Men by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Given that Oppenheim was born and bred in Leicestershire, the Leicester County Library couldn’t’ve been happier to reclaim this piece of local literary history, which turned up in a nearby house 79 years after it was borrowed.

4. Facts I Ought to Know About the Government of My Country by William H. Bartlett

Try to contain your excitement at the title of this undoubtedly thrilling read, which was returned one year shy of a century after it was borrowed from the New Bedford Public Library in Massachusetts, US. The man who returned it claimed his mother, a Polish immigrant, borrowed the book to brush up on the politics of her adopted country.

3. Insectivorous Plants by Charles Darwin

A copy of Darwin’s treatise on bug-eating plants was borrowed from Sydney’s Camden School of Arts Lending Library back in 1889. It was finally returned 122 years later on July 22, 2011.

2. The Ancient History of the Egyptians, Carthaginians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Macedonians, and Grecians (volume II) by Charles Rollin

In 2013, this old tome (originally borrowed from the Grace Doherty Library in Danville, Kentucky) was found at a nearby school for the deaf, where it’s believed to have remained since 1854. “It’s been out of the library for at least 150 years,” librarian Stan Campbell said.

1. The Law of Nations by Emmerich de Vattel

This legal manifesto was borrowed from the New York Society Library by George Washington five months into his presidency – but he never returned it. For 221 years it remained hidden in his Virginia home and was finally sent back to the library in 2010. Lucky for his descendants, the library waived the $300,000 late fee. Phew!

Do you still have any overdue library books from back in the day? Let us know in the comments!

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