It should have been returned decades ago and technically carries a £1,000 fine.

But one retired teacher who discovered a library book from 1934 has been told by staff that he can keep it and won’t have to pay any fee – despite the text being nearly 86 years overdue.

Jim MacLeod, 63, found a copy of Peg the Rake by Scottish novelist Eliza Humphreys in his study at home in Manchester on March 17.

The Victorian-era book – inscribed with Humphreys’ pen name “Rita” –had been borrowed from the Carnegie Library in Ayr, South Ayrshire, on November 12, 1934.

The sixth edition copy, which is bound in black leather, was never returned. to the library But Mr MacLeod Jim has been told he can keep the long-lost item is his free of chargeand won’t have to pay any fines.

The retired languages teacher, originally from Maryhill, Glasgow, said: “I was in the study and for some reason I just picked up the book.

“I opened it because it was covered in dust.

“There it was dated 1894.

“The front page had been stamped 12 November, 1934.”

Released in 1894, the book was first loaned from the library on January 14, 1934, and was borrowed a total of 69 times.

A warning from the library on the adjacent page reads: “This book must be returned to the Library not later than Fourteen Days from the date of issue.

“A Fine of One Penny will be stringently enacted for each week or portion of a week that the Book is kept beyond the time allowed.”

To date, the book has accrued 4,440 pennies worth of fines – around £1,000 in today’s money.

Mr MacLeodJim called the Carnegie Library who thanked him for getting in touch but told him he owed nothing and could keep the antique book.

The father-of-two said he never throws books away and promised to take good care of it.

Jim said: “The fact that this book is over 100 years old, you think of all the hands that have touched it, but it’s been well looked after and is in good condition,” he said.

“We’ve got family from Maybole on my mum’s side. I phoned the library and said ‘the book’s 1894, the date for coming back is 1934’.

“She said, ‘that’s 86 years you know’.

“I said to the librarian, ‘is it still due’.

“She said, ‘legally, yes’, but just laughed.

“I offered to send it back but they said I can hold onto it and look after it – the library was really good.

“I’d never throw a book away – I can keep it in my nice study.”

The book will now take pride of place on Mr MacLeod’sJim’s bookshelf as an “inadvertent heirloom”, although he admits he probably won’t read it.

He said: “I had a peer into it, it’s turgid and hard going.

“But when you get into it you’re opening a door to another time, it’s the Victorian era.”

Mr MacLeod added: “It’s something to laugh and smile at.

“It’s been in the family as an inadvertent heirloom.”