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After 200 years, George Washington gets a library at his Mount Vernon estate
US Senator Mark Warner, D-Virginia, speaks during the opening ceremony of the National Library for the Study of George Washington in Mount Vernon, Virginia, September 27, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON.

ALEXANDRIA (AFP).- 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 in a ceremony at his Mount Vernon estate some 15 miles (25 kilometers) from the US 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 some 12,000 other works, newspapers, and films pertaining to the former president.

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

The three-story building, spread across 43,000 feet (4,000 meters) sports neo-classical architecture in light-colored stone and sits in the middle of a park just steps from the historic Mount Vernon mansion where George Washington lived and died.

In addition to the first president, the busts of five other figures from his time, including Founding Fathers Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, are on display in the reading room facing a bay window overlooking the garden.

Rare books and manuscripts are kept in small, adjacent rooms without windows.

The highlight of the collection is a copy of the Acts of Congress and the US 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 told AFP.

"He didn't have a formal education, he was a man of action."

The library, which cost $106.4 million, 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.

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

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