Book returned to UK cathedral’s lending library after 300 years

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. godmother / ˈgɒdˌmʌð ər / (n.) – a woman who’s promised to be involved in raising a child, especially in a religious way

    We decided to ask my best friend to be my son’s godmother.

  2. bequest / bɪˈkwɛst / (n.) – the act of giving something through a will

    The money was donated to the museum at the bequest of my uncle.

  3. belated / bɪˈleɪ tɪd / (adj.) – late, happening after the expected time

    We decided to have a belated celebration one week after they got married.

  4. legible / ˈlɛdʒ ə bəl / (adj.) – able to be read

    I think the handwritten letter is legible, but my friend said she can’t read it at all.

  5. wear and tear / wɛər ænd tɛər / (n.) – damage or stress that occurs through use

    You won’t be fined for the minor floor damage. It’s just normal wear and tear.


Read the text below.

The old saying “better late than never” took on new meaning when Keith Farrow, the reverend canon of Sheffield Cathedral in northern England, told an amazing story to UPI News.

The story was about a little library book titled The Faith and Practice of a Church of England Man, printed in 1704, that had been returned to Sheffield Cathedral after having gone missing for three centuries.

Farrow explained, “It has come back to us because a lady in Wales, whose godmother passed away, found it amongst her belongings. In her will was the bequest that it should return to Sheffield Cathedral.”

The cathedral used to have a lending library and it was very popular among the locals before it was dismantled in the 1800s. If not for the lady in Wales, the book may have been lost forever. Farrow joked that if the cathedral had charged a fine for the book’s belated return, the fee would be enough to buy them a new roof. “But I did promise the family that I wouldn’t charge them the fine — they’ve returned the book and that’s wonderful.”

Farrow also told UPI that 300 years ago books were stored with the spine laid horizontally, not vertically as they are today. Perhaps that’s partly why The Faith and Practice of a Church of England Man is in such great shape. All the pages seem intact and legible. Though the cover shows some wear and tear, it displays none of the dusty fragility one would normally associate with a centuries-old print publication.

In a video filmed by UPI News, Farrow could be seen handling the book and turning the pages with his bare hands. He summed up: “So this little book, just over 300 years ago, left the library. Now it’s come back home so it’s a joy to have this jewel back here in Sheffield Cathedral.” (The Japan Times)

This article was provided by The Japan Times Alpha.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • The book was returned to Sheffield Cathedral because of a bequest in a woman’s will. Why do you think the woman put this request in her will instead of simply returning the book herself? If you were her goddaughter, would you have followed the request or done something else with the book? Why? Discuss.
  • Farrow could be seen handling the centuries-old book and turning the pages with his bare hands. Do you think that’s okay, or should he treat the book more carefully? Why? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Farrow promised the family that he wouldn’t charge them a fine. Do you think that was the right decision? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Some people say “better late than never.” Do you agree? Why or why not? Discuss.