The name of this library book returned 100 years late couldn’t get any better

Home libraries can hold surprises.
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A patron recently returned an overdue library book in San Francisco — 100 years overdue. The title? “Forty Minutes Late.”

In the end, “Forty Minutes Late” was returned to the library 52,560,000 minutes late.

Webb Johnson returned the book, which was checked out in 1917 years ago by his great-grandmother, to the San Francisco Public Library on Friday, incurring no fine for his ancestor’s tardiness, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Reacting to the news that he wouldn’t have to fork over $3,650 in overdue penalties, Johnson said, “Whew.”


Johnson’s great-grandmother isn’t really to blame for failing to return the book in a timely fashion. She died a week before the book was due back at the Fillmore branch of the library, which no longer exists.

“It’s hard to come back as a ghost and return your late library book,” Judy Wells, a cousin of Johnson, told KGO-TV.

“Forty Minutes Late” is a short story collection by F. Hopkinson Smith, published by Grosset & Dunlap in 1909. Smith, whose first name was Francis, is now not known for his fiction but as being the engineer who built the foundation for the Statue of Liberty.

Luckily for Johnson, the San Francisco library is currently in the midst of an amnesty program that waives all late fees for overdue material.

“I’m guilty. I know it,” Johnson said. “Guilty, guilty, guilty.”

He said he realized the book wasn’t legally part of his great-grandmother’s estate in 1996.


Luis Herrera, San Francisco’s chief librarian, said the library hasn’t decided whether to return the book to circulation, but he recognizes that there will be some interest in the long-missing volume.

“This is something I know people will want to read,” he said.