George Washington’s annotated copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights (1789) sold for $9.8 million dollars at an auction held at Christie’s New York on June 22, making this book the most expensive American book sold at auction. Despite its age — 223 years — the book, printed by Francis Childs and John Swaine, is in remarkable condition and highly coveted since it contains not only Washington’s extensive margin notes but also his signature and armorial bookplate. The book had been originally purchased at auction by collector H. Richard Dietrich, Jr. in 1964. Prior to that, the book had been owned by the Heritage Foundation that bought the book at auction back in 1876 from its original home, the Mount Vernon library.
The bidding for the book began at $1.3 million and within four minutes the hammer came down on an astonishingly high bid by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union, a nonprofit educational organization that owns and operates George Washington’s home and museum. Apparently, these ladies really know how to shop — and price was no object since they paid $6 million more than the book’s original estimated price of $2-3 million.
The second highest price for an American book or document was $3.4 million paid in February 2009 for an autograph manuscript of Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 victory speech. Next on the list is $3.2 million paid in December 2009 for an autograph letter regarding the ratification of the Constitution written by George Washington in 1787 to his nephew, Bushrod Washington.
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For further reading: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/books-manuscripts/washington-george-president-united-5584777-details.aspx?pos=1&intObjectID=5584777&sid=&page=1?intObjectID=5584777.