Harvard Library Book Returned--233 Years Overdue

Associated Press

A book about the history of England has been returned to Harvard University--233 years after it was checked out.

No one knows where the thick, leather-covered “Complete History of England with the Lives of All the Kings and Queens Thereof, Volume 3,” has been. It was one of only a few books that survived a fire at the university in 1764, thanks to an unknown borrower who failed to return it.

“It’s remarkable that it’s come back,” said Roger Stoddard, curator of rare books in the Harvard College Library.

The book itself is a relatively undistinguished volume of history that was written by Bishop White Kennett, printed in London in 1706 and given to Harvard by Thomas Bannister, a Boston minister, in 1709.

It was one of 404 books that escaped a fire in Harvard Hall when the building burned to the ground during the college’s winter vacation on Jan. 25, 1764, destroying the rest of the 5,000-volume collection.


About 250 books that were being kept in storage were spared. Another 144 were out on loan, including one from the original bequest of John Harvard, after whom the university was named.