Should I give a dead stranger's book to his children?
July 25, 2009 12:22 PM Subscribe
I found a neat antique book, and now I've tracked down its old owner. He's dead. Should I offer to give it to his children?
posted by Salvor Hardin to Human Relations (26 answers total)
I found a CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics 25th edition from 1941 at a recycling center! It's in excellent shape, and, being a physicist, it'll make for a cool desk piece. It has a name and address handwritten on the inside cover.
I did some googling on the person who wrote his name on the inside cover, and I found his NYTimes obituary. He died a year and a half ago at age 88. He sounds like he was a pretty interesting guy - an orthopedic surgeon, lecturer, college track star, golf enthusiast, ran the Boston marathon, served in US Army Medical Corps, animal rights philanthropist, etc.
I also located his five children (he also has many grandchildren and even a few great-grandchildren).
Now for my question:
Would it be a nice gesture to contact one of his children and offer to send the book to him? I feel like this could be a touchy situation, since I know little about these people or their former patriarch. The only sign of his ownership is the name handwritten on the front inside cover along with a home and school address.
Note: I realize of course that I am not obligated to return the book to his children - just asking if it's a nice idea or a stupid idea. Thanks hive mind!