According to Melo, the curator at the New Bedford library, the cranberry-colored copy of “An Elementary Treatise on Electricity” that has been returned is not considered a rare edition, despite being first published in 1881, two years after the author James Clerk Maxwell’s death in 1879.
Although the library occasionally receives books that are 10 or 15 years overdue, it is highly unusual to have a book returned after a century or more, Melo added.
When the treatise was last in New Bedford, the world was still exploring the potential of electricity. In 1880, Thomas Edison secured a significant patent for his incandescent lamp, marking a milestone in the field.
This historical context reveals that the treatise’s return coincided with noteworthy events: the anticipation of the second modern World Series, President Theodore Roosevelt’s bid for re-election, the recent breakthrough in flight by the Wright brothers, and the inauguration of New York City’s first subway line.
Melo emphasizes that the rediscovery and return of this book serve as a testament to the enduring value of printed works, especially in an era dominated by computerization and instant access to vast amounts of information.