If Arthur Edwin Boycott were still alive today, he would owe the library upwards to $10,000 for a stolen, 120 years overdue library book. Over a century ago, in 1894, the book thief checked out Walter Benjamin Carpenter’s, The Microscope and Its Revelations. With more than 700 pages, the book probably provided well for Mr. Boycott when he was a schoolboy, as he studied natural sciences at Oxford later on in his life and found a career as a professor of pathology.
The overdue library saga book begins when Paul Smith, headmaster at the Hereford Cathedral School, received a brown package with a handwritten note attached to it. The apologetic note read as follows, “I am sorry to inform you that one of your former pupils, Professor A.E. Boycott FRS [Fellow of the Royal Society], appears to have stolen the enclosed — I can’t imagine how the school has managed without it!”
Alice Gillet is Boycott’s 77-year-old granddaughter who discovered the overdue book while going through her deceased husbands extensive collection of 6,000 books. “My grandmother said he always had snails in his pockets,” said Boycotts granddaughter about the professor. When she returned the book to the library, which is located between Wales and England, the headmaster wasn’t entirely ready to accuse Boycott of stealing the book.
Because of his enthusiasm towards natural history and science, the headmaster would rather presume that Boycott’s book could have been given to him by a mentor. He told NPR,
The headmaster continued, “You know, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a kindly master had seen in the young Arthur Boycott an eminent scientist in the making and had said, ‘Here, take this, lad.'”
Whatever the case may be, Walter Benjamin Carpenter’s book is nestled safely back on the shelves in the Hereford Cathedral School among the collection of older books. Ready for someone else to lose it in the stack of research materials on their desk.