TNB Night Owl – The Book Of Fines

Money for Exchange. Photo by

The Book of Fines is a fairly specialized tome – it’s a compilation of records for property transactions, both direct sale and via forfeitures, that occurred in Taunton, England between the years of 1641 and 1648.

It’s the sort of book which is useful primarily to genealogists and historians, but it was instead borrowed by the Bishop of Winchester from the Somerset County Records Office for financial research. Hunting down monetary records from 350 years ago may seem like an odd pursuit for Tim Dakin, who was elevated to the position of Bishop in 2012… and it would be, because he didn’t borrow the book.

The book was borrowed in 1650 during the Third English Civil War by the man who would eventually be given the title of Bishop of Winchester, Brian Duppa. He required it for contemporary research on fines and payments, and he kept it in the office library. Upon his death, it was passed – along with the office – to the next Bishop. Then to the next one, for about two hundred years.

At that point, new offices were constructed, and many of the older and less useful books in the existing office were transferred to a church library. A book of financial records from two centuries in the past certainly counted as “older and less useful”. It went directly to the church.

There it remained for another hundred years, until a curious member of the clergy examined the old volume resting on the shelf… and discovered the marks of possession on the book from Somerset County.

In 1985, The Book of Fines was returned to what was now the Somerset County Library, three hundred and thirty-five years past the expected date of return and setting the record for the most overdue library book in history.

There was a fine of 3,000 pounds sterling.

Question of the night: What’s your favorite nonfiction book?

About the opinions in this article…

Any opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this website or of the other authors/contributors who write for it.

About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.