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'Picture of Dorian Gray' borrowed in 1934 is finally returned

Intriguing case of immortality work lost for generations

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A rare book telling the story of a young man who sells his soul in a bargain whereby he stops ageing has been returned to a library after having been taken out in 1934.

The tome in question is a valuable first edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray, the novel written by noted 19th-century writer, wit and theatrical luvvie Oscar Wilde - the Stephen Fry of his time. In it a young man embarks on a life of debauchery after having his portrait painted, and for some reason or another the picture becomes old and raddled while the chap remains yummy and does not age.

Perhaps needless to say, the eponymous protagonist eventually comes to a bad end, but not before having lots of fun.

Possibly mysteriously, the first edition of the tale held by the Chicago Public Library was checked out in 1934 ... and never given back. However the Library is currently holding a "blue moon" late-fees amnesty, and this prompted the volume's long-delayed return.

It seems that the book was found by a Ms Harlean Hoffman Vision in her late mother's effects, but Ms Vision didn't dare return it as she had calculated that fines of more then $6,000 had built up. Thus she waited until the rare amnesty was declared (the Chicago library hasn't held one since the 1990s).

In fact, according to this Reuters report on the case, there's a cap of $10 on late fees, so the book could easily have been returned earlier. There's nothing in the story about Ms Vision's mother having lived an unusually long time without apparently ageing or anything. ®

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