The Book Detektive – A one-volume police force

Not a typo—The Book Detektive by Beach Cooke and Christopher Morley is a funny little package one of our students discovered in our uncataloged section recently. Produced in 1938, it was likely intended as a lighthearted miniature lending library system.

It even looks like a book on the shelf, and folds out to reveal a multi-sectioned faux-leather case containing the various tools a book “detektive” needs to not only track the habits of reader-borrowers, but gracefully and politely make sure that every book finds its way home.


The first booklet is a means of keeping detailed track of who borrowed what and when (not exactly ethical behavior under ALA standards!) along with a humorous and fictional criminal trial between a book’s distraught owner and the borrower who didn’t return it on time.

Next there are forms to fill out, fold, and actually place on the owner’s home bookshelf as a placeholder to let the owner know the book isn’t missing but rather being lent out. The original pencil also comes with this set, and doesn’t appear to have ever been used.

Particularly funny are the sample letters the owner can write to ill-behaved borrowers in peculiar social situations:

Finally, the packet has a set of bookmarks to include whenever handing off a book to a friend. These are supposed to serve as a constant reminder of who the book really belongs to:


The Book Detektive is part of our Christopher Morley collection, donated by Dr. Elizabeth Melvin Chamberlin. It’s currently uncataloged, but we are working to find new and interesting treasures like this one.

About Melissa Kunz

Melissa Kunz is a Special Collections Librarian. She holds a Masters in Library and Information Studies and a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Hendrix College in Arkansas.
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