Staff discovered, it was missing when they conducted an inventory of books in the library's 1789-1792 ledger earlier this year. Washington had never returned the book – an essay on international affairs – to the library, which shared a building with the federal government at the time and was used by members of Congress and the cabinet as well as the president. The former president's overdue fines, it has been calculated, would theoretically amount to $300,000 (£209,000).
After staff at Mount Vernon, Washington's former home in Virginia, learned of the situation, they got in touch with the library – New York's oldest – offering to replace the book with another copy of the same edition. A ceremony yesterday saw Mount Vernon staff present the book to the library.
Two hundred and twenty-one years later, The Law of Nations has finally come home, with – fortunately for Mount Vernon's coffers – no mention made of the fine.