Long-lost Freud book returned to Ontario library 40 years later by psychoanalyst

Dr. Brian Reid signed out the book in the late 1970s, then later become a psychoanalyst himself. He hopes returning it will inspire someone else.

Dr. Brian Reid lost the Huron County library book in the late 1970s

Dr. Brian Reid paid the Huron County library $35 after losing the book of Freud's writing in the 1970s. (Provided)

More than forty years after signing out a copy of Sigmund Freud's "A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis," Dr. Brian Reid - now a psychoanalyst himself - is returning the long-lost book to his hometown library. 

"Unconsciously, I must have wanted to retain it," he wrote in a letter to the Alice Munro branch in Wingham, Ont., with the book enclosed. "I thought, 'Why don't I return it to where it belongs, and maybe it will inspire someone else."

Reid checked out the copy in the late 1970s, around the time his math teacher and high school guidance councillor said he "wasn't university material" and "wasn't smart enough," as he remembers. 

"When it came time to return the book, it had vanished. I paid for the book and figured it was lost, never to be found," he said, not realizing the book would surface later in life. 

Book found under driver's seat

Reid left town to study photography at Fanshawe College in nearby London, on his guidance councillor's advice. A field trip to University Hospital to learn about medical photography reignited the interest that had brought him to the councillor's office in the first place: a desire to study medicine. 

This collection of translated lectures by Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, was published in 1963.  (Submitted by Huron County Library)

He enrolled in a human physiology program at Western University. During second year, in 1982, Reid found the library book while clearing out his car to take to the auto wrecker. It was under the driver's seat. 

"I was surprised and I was pleased. I'd enjoyed reading the book," he recalled.

"I figured I'd paid for it, I might as well keep it."

The book moved with him over the years, from medical school at the University of Ottawa, to family medicine at McMaster University, psychiatry at Western University, and psychoanalytic training at the Toronto Psychoanalytic Institute. 

Returned to library

Now with a private practice in London, the library book popped into his mind while listening to his hometown radio station. It turned up again while he was transferring books from home to office, flipping to telemedicine during the pandemic. 

"I didn't go back [to my hometown] and practice, which is what I wanted to do. So this is the most I can do right now: to return a book. Maybe it will inspire someone else," he said. 

I think we can all look back to our childhood, and that one book that left a lasting impression on us."- Trina Huffman, Alice Munro Public Library


"It had sentimental value, but I should return it to them," he said. 

It's an example of how the written word, and libraries, have inspired and influenced people, said Trina Huffman, branch manager for the Alice Munro Public Library, where the book and letter have been on display since the fall. 

Alice Munro Public Library in Wingham, Ont. (Submitted by Huron County Library)

"I think we can all think back to our childhood, and that one book that left a lasting impression on us." she said.

"I guess the book served it's purpose," said Reid, who now owns the complete 24 volume standard edition of Freud's writing.

Read the letter Dr. Reid wrote when returning the book

Dr. Brian Reid's letter of explanation was enclosed with the library book when he returned it in the fall.  (Submitted by Huron County Library)

"I had to find my own way"

Though he proved his math teacher and guidance councillor wrong, Reid doesn't resent the comments implying he wasn't smart enough. 

"I would have to admit, I was not a good student in high school," he said. "If he had thrown my transcript in front of me and said, 'What do you think? I probably would have agreed it wasn't stellar," he said. 

 After failing a couple of exams in first semester at Western, he "just got to work figuring out how to work hard."

Reid doubled up on lectures, finding out who the best professors were in physics and calculus, and attending their lectures as well. 

"I couldn't have tried any harder," he recalled. "I hadn't been to university and didn't know anyone who had been. I took it at face value and had to find my own way."