George Washington's U.S. Constitution up for auction

Wed Jun 13, 2012 5:57pm EDT
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A gold-embossed piece of U.S. history will go up for sale this month, when Christie's auctions off George Washington's personal copy of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The documents, which date to 1789 and are signed and annotated by the first U.S. president, are poised to fetch from $2 million to $3 million when they hit the block on June 22, the auction house said on Wednesday.

The bound papers constitute Washington's personal copy of the Acts of Congress. These include the Constitution, whose preamble promises to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity," along with the draft Bill of Rights - the first 10 amendments to the Constitution which include such fundamental liberties as the right to free speech, press, assembly and religion.

The volume, embossed with "President of the United States" in gold on the cover, was described by Christie's as being in near-pristine condition after 223 years. It was specially printed for Washington in 1789, his first year in office as president.

The margins include Washington's handwritten brackets and notations highlighting key passages concerning the president's responsibilities.

The Acts of Congress volume was sold from Washington's library at Mt. Vernon in 1876 and was eventually bought at auction by collector Richard Dietrich in the 1960s. It is being offered for sale by the family's estate.

Similar volumes created for Thomas Jefferson, the first Secretary of State and third U.S. president, and Attorney General John Jay, are in Indiana's Lilly Library and a private collection, respectively.

Rare books and manuscripts have achieved some impressive prices in recent years.   Continued...