July 31, 2014

Sad book returned to the NYPL after 54 years


ideal_marriageEvery so often, a book is returned to the library so late, it makes headlines. The due date of the sad book in this particular headline was August 17, 1959.

The New York Public Library recently received a copy of Ideal Marriage by Th.H. Van de Velde, M.D. The librarian reports it’s a “very wordy” and scientific guide to sex from 1926. (It’s “certainly more juicy than The Tropic of Cancer,” writes Billy Parrott of the Mid-Manhattan Library.)

It was such a source of shame, it wasn’t returned by the patron, but by his in-laws after the patron’s death:

We found this book amongst my late brother-in-law’s things. Funny thing is the book didn’t support his efforts with his first (and only) marriage… it failed! No wonder he hid the book! So sorry!!

A shocked in-law

Parrott says he always looks for annotations in overdue titles. In this case, only one passage was underlined: “…only care to relieve their own tensions and care nothing for their wives as an individual or mate.” Ouch.

Makes you feel better about that dollar fifty you’ve put off paying, doesn’t it? Parrott reassures us:

An overdue book is nothing to be ashamed of. Let’s face it, accidents happen and sometimes books are returned past their due date. It’s a small mistake that should not keep you away from the Library.


Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.