George Washington library opens at Mount Vernon

AFP-JIJI

George Washington, the first president of the United States, was finally honored with a library Friday, more than 200 years after the end of his tenure.

The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington was inaugurated at the Founding Father’s Mount Vernon estate, about 25 km from the capital.

The library and research center houses 103 of some 1,200 titles that belonged to Washington, in addition to 2,000 publications from the era, 6,000 historical manuscripts and around 12,000 other works, newspapers, and films pertaining to the former president.

It is an expansive body of literature that would likely have impressed Washington, who received no formal education beyond roughly the age of 15 and relied heavily on books to guide him in his academic pursuits thereafter.

The three-story building sports neoclassical architecture in light-colored stone and sits in the middle of a park near the historic Mount Vernon mansion where he lived and died.

In addition to Washington, the busts of five other figures from his era, including fellow Founding Fathers Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, are on display in the library’s reading room facing a bay window overlooking the garden. Rare books and manuscripts are kept in adjacent windowless rooms.

The highlight of the collection is a copy of the Acts of Congress and the U.S. Constitution annotated by Washington himself.

Purchased at auction last year for $9.8 million was the most expensive American volume ever bought under the hammer.

Washington’s vast book collection included encyclopedias, poetry and agriculture volumes, comedies and plays.

“He particularly liked agricultural books and books on politics and war, books he used to improve himself,” library director Douglas Bradburn said. “He was a man of action.”

The library, which cost $106 million to build, was funded by private donations. In addition to preserving the archived materials, the facility will also make them available to researchers and organize conferences and seminars.