George Washington's library book returned 221 years late

NEW YORK Thu May 20, 2010 11:08pm IST

1 of 2. A library book borrowed by the first U.S. president, George Washington, and returned to the New York Society Library, is seen in this undated handout photo.

Credit: Reuters/New York Society Library/Handout

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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A library book borrowed by the first U.S. president, George Washington, has been returned to a New York City's oldest library, 221 years late.

Washington checked out the book from the New York Society Library at a time when the library shared a building with the federal government in lower Manhattan.

The library said in a statement that its borrowing records, or charging ledger, showed Washington took out "The Law of Nations" by Emer de Vattel on October 5, 1789.

The book was not returned, nor any overdue book fine paid -- with the overdue fee now calculated at about $300,000.

The missing book came to light when the New York Society Library was restoring its 1789-1792 charging ledger, which features the borrowing history of Washington, John Adams, John Jay, Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, George Clinton, and others.

The library conducted an inventory of books mentioned in the ledger and confirmed the book checked out by Washington was still missing.

But the missing book was kept secret for years until it became public recently in an article in The New York Daily News, the library said in a statement.

"A few days after learning of the situation, staff at Washington's home in Virginia, Mount Vernon, offered to replace Vattel's "Law of Nations" with another copy of the same edition," the library said in a statement.

To mark the occasion the library hosted a ceremony on May 19 at which the errant volume was presented.

(Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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