AT just 200 pages long, this thin book about Spanish artist Goya should have been a quick read. But it took David Black more than half a century to return the copy after borrowing it from an Edinburgh library as a schoolboy in 1962.

Having missed the return date by a staggering 51 years, the now 60-year-old could have been charged almost £3,000 in late fees, but bosses at the Fine Art Library waived the fine as part of an amnesty on overdue books.

The copy of Dr Xavier de Salas’ profile of the 18th century artist was overdue by 18,417 days when arts writer Mr Black sheepishly brought it back to the library, after spotting a notice about the week-long amnesty. Under Edinburgh City Council’s late fee charge of 15 pence per day, Mr Black’s fine would have amounted to £2762.55.

‘When I read about the fines amnesty I decided that I must do it, once and for all, if only to see the librarian’s face,’ said Mr Black. ‘It feels good to have finally returned it after all these years.’

Mr Black borrowed the book using his mother and former town councillor Winnie Black’s ticket. ‘I was only a schoolboy at the time and completely forgot to return it,’ he said.

The amnesty has seen over 4,000 overdue books returned to Edinburgh libraries. Despite the lengthy delay, the copy of Goya is not the most overdue  book to be returned to a library.

In December 2011 a copy of the Victorian miscellany Good Words for 1888 was returned to a library in Cumbria after 123 years.                                   –DM