Friday, April 17, 2009

Day 95/365 No More Lost Books

Looks like the staff at Leyburn Library at Washington & Lee University will be able to notify the next person on the waiting list that this book is once again available for checkout.

Yes, when you find that long-lost library book under the bed, covered in dust, it's never too late to return it. With any luck, they'll waive the fine, just like they did for C.S. Gates.

Of course, Gates "borrowed" the book (read: stole it) back in 1864, considering it war booty, and mistakenly thinking he was conquering the Virginia Military Institute.

What volume of literature was so fascinating it begged to be stolen? That would be a 1842 edition,Volume 1, of a four volume set written by W.F.P. Napier, entitled "History of the War in the Peninsula and in the South of France From the Year 1807 to the Year 1814".

Catchy title,eh?

I would love to know just how long it took Gates to wander about the library shelves, deciding which book to abscond with. Did he start in fiction, then decide the occasion called for something more serious, and meander over to military history? Or did he lay awake the night before, thinking "Boy if we win tomorrow, I'm going straight to the library to take their copy of "History of the War in the Peninsula", but only Vol 1, cause the other three volumes suck."

Was there a librarian there, shushing him?

Did the librarian wonder why this Union soldier thought he was in the Virginia Military Institute, instead of down the street at what was then Washington College? (It didn't become Washington & Lee until after the War, when the great Confederate general Robert E. Lee signed on as an instructor).

Did she sigh and shake her head, and say "These people can't possibly win the War, they don't even know where they are!"

Or did she suspect the soldier had a book stuck in his bedroll, and wish she could call campus security? I have a mental picture of a prim and proper librarian, waving a broom at C.S. Gates, insisting that the young man PUT THAT BOOK BACK NOW!

All that really matters of course, is that this book, like all good books, found its way home, to the shelf it belongs on, with the other 3 volumes of its set.

That it took the long way home, choosing to see the world on the way and having an adventure, just warms the heart of this particular bookseller.

Photos from The Associated Press.

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