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Book returned after 145 years

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A library book 52,858 days (145 years) overdue has just been returned. The story behind its disappearance (and reappearance) stretches from the Civil War on down to a plucky Midwestern college football coach.

According to the Washington Post, the book was one of a thousand or so looted from the library of Washington College (today known as Washington & Lee University) by Union soldiers shortly after the end of the Civil War. This particular book is a leather-bound history book,  Volume 1 of a four-volume set on a Napoleonic military campaign. The soldier who apparently took it, C.S. Gates, handed it down to his descendants.

That's how the book came to be in the possession of Isabel Gates, an Illinois resident and the last descendant of C.S. She died in 1988 and left the book to Mike Dau, a coach at nearby Lake Forest College.

According to the Post, Dau had been a friend of the Gateses since he was a student at Lake Forest College and he is also a book collector. Dau kept the book for some years before enlisting the services of a book dealer to help him track down the rightful owner.

According to that dealer, the book is not valuable – although the story behind it is priceless.

Today, the book is back in Lexington, Va., at Washington & Lee. The school is thrilled to have it – although the set is still not quite complete. "Volumes three and four are out there somewhere," Laura Turner, technical services librarian at Washington & Lee told the Post. "We'd love to have them back!"


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