A Treasure Map Where "X" Marks a 45 Year Old Overdue Library Book

October 9, 2018 | Karolina

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Hallowe'en's the time for ghosts!

Halloween’s the time for Ghosts’, creepy stories and spooky tales and the library is no exception! The shelves are filled with stories and the staff have a tale (or many) of secrets from within our library walls. I have a tale that includes an old mine, a treasure and maybe some pirates ...

A few months ago, I was cleaning out my office when, in a pile of random papers, I saw a big envelope addressed to “Toronto Public Library”. I had no idea where it came from. I felt like I struck gold when I laid eyes on what I found inside…a treasure map!

Before I take you through all the contents of this envelope, a word of caution to this tale…nothing that you see or read here is made up! Everything is true.

Now, you may be wondering about this treasure map. The first thing I thought when I saw it was “omg, I’m going to be rich!” and then “pirates!” My thoughts looked something like this:

Party At Sea Jolly Roger Pirate forces a visiting damsel to walk the plank by George Bryant  Pirate captain David Mathews shows little brother Talim Rahaman 10 some booty at the Royal York by Boris Spremo  Ship ahoy; maties! lan Coombes climbs the rigging of the Rattlesnake a $1.7 million replica of an 18th century pirate ship which sails out of Jackson's Point giving tours around Lake Simcoe by Jim Russell

More importantly, the contents of the envelope looked like this:

Contents of the envelop include a map and book cover in a zip lock bag

There was a map and a book cover. The map itself was printed from Google Maps and written was the message:

We discovered the abandoned mine while on a fishing trip. The cover was found in the remains of what may have been the bunker house.

Along with the map came an old looking book cover in a zip lock bag with a post-it note that reads “DO NOT OPEN: Risk of Mold”. It appears that this book cover was found in a mine and the book itself was borrowed from the Toronto Public Library! I am no detective but the inside of the book cover itself has a plate glued to it with the following (library cheeky) inscription:

Shelf No. ......................
Toronto Public Library
Circulating Library

Books may be retained for two weeks unless marked seven days and may be renewed once if no application has been registered for them. For longer detention a fine of 3 cents per day will be imposed.

The Librarian shall examine every book returned and if the same be found marked spotted with ink, with leaves turned down or in any way injured the borrower shall pay the value of the book.

Treasure map mailed to  Toronto Public Library
Treasure map mailed to Toronto Public Library
Toronto Public Library book cover that  was found in an abandoned mine  45 years ago
Toronto Public Library book cover that was found in an abandoned mine 45 years ago

With the help of one of the librarians in the Special Collections department at the Toronto Reference library, I did some digging and unfortunately, there was no way to find out which book this book cover came from. However! I did learn more about book plates. "A bookplate, or ex libris, is a small print for pasting inside the cover of a book, to express ownership. By the late 19th century, bookplates had developed into a highly imaginative form of miniature art" (The Guardian). Toronto Public Library has had its own history of various types of bookplates. I found the following:

Toronto Public Library bookplate from 1921
Toronto Public Library bookplate from 1921
Toronto Public Library bookplate from 1927
Toronto Public Library bookplate from 1927
Toronto Public Library bookplate from 1953
Toronto Public Library bookplate from 1953

The book cover and bookplate from the mine must have also then been from as early as 1920 (or maybe even earlier). The environment that it was kept in might have also decayed the print on the plate. From a similar plate in a book at Toronto Reference Library, a "Shelf No." was written (the way books were identified) and it looks like the word "Central" was also stamped beside the word "Branch". All an all, a mystery that cannot fully be solved but it is interesting to see how far one of our books travelled (over 1900 kilometers!). Needless to say, whoever borrowed this book, and failed to return it after the 2 week loan, definitely owes Toronto Public Library a hefty fine of 3 cents per day! hahah

After all this talk of treasure maps, if you want to go on your own real life treasure hunt, Toronto Public Library houses a collection of treasure maps and charts!

Book cover for A descriptive list of treasure maps and charts in the Library of Congress by Library of Congress. Geography and Map Division. United States treasure map atlas by Terry  Thomas P. Book cover for Treasure map of the Great Lakes region by Schultz  Gerard  1902-

And if you want to make your own treasure map, visit our large map collection. To date, the Digitization Department has digitized, and made available online, 614 maps from our library collection and you're free to modify them:

Search results for maps

Happy treasure hunting!