George Washington’s Constitution to be auctioned

George Washington’s Constitution to be auctioned

GEORGE WASHINGTON’S 223-year-old copies of the Constitution and Bill of Rights are expected to go for bids of $2 million to $3 million at auction next week.

By (AP)

Published: Fri 15 Jun 2012, 1:13 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 12:34 AM

The documents are bound in a book that contains notes in Washington’s handwriting, including notations of the responsibilities of the president. Christie’s auction house plans to offer the documents to bidders on June 22 in New York.

Thomas Lecky, head of Christie’s books and manuscripts department, called the book “certainly on the one hand of great things” to have passed through the auction house in his time. This copy of the Constitution, bound by Thomas Allen of New York in 1789, was one of a set of three. The other two copies went to President Thomas Jefferson and John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court.

Washington’s documents rank, Lecky said, among the more notable items previously auctioned by Christie’s, such as one of Shakespeare’s first folios, Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 victory speech, and three copies of John James Audubon’s Birds of America.

In a room lit by chandeliers, Christie’s senior specialist for books and manuscripts Chris Coover used no gloves as he lifted the book’s pages. The book is in exceptional condition, Coover said, because of its high-quality paper and the care that its previous owners had shown for it.

The paper hosting the articles that serve as a foundation for the country’s laws were thick and largely unmarked, save for Washington’s own notes, scribbled in pencil in the margins. Most of the notes showed sections bracketed off and marked “president,” indicating the duties and responsibilities Washington saw as his own.

Washington also signed his name on the title page, a sprawling line in the top right corner.

The documents are unique, Coover and Lecky said, because Washington rarely wrote in the margins of his volumes. With no Kindle or iPad on hand to drop in electronic bookmarks, the first president used a pencil to annotate the Constitution.

The estimated winning bid for the volume is based on the final bid for a 1787 letter that Washington wrote about the Constitution, Coover said. Christie’s sold that document in 2009 for $3.2 million, Coover said.

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