NEW YORK (Reuters) - A rare first edition of the lyrics and music of the U.S. national anthem was sold in spirited bidding at auction on Friday to an anonymous buyer for $500,500, exceeding pre-sale estimates.
The two-page, 1814 lyrics of “The Star Spangled Banner,” which Christie’s auction house described as “a true icon of American history and patriotism,” was the last of 11 copies to be in private hands. All other copies are in institutions or university libraries.
“It pretty much doubled the estimate,” said Chris Coover, senior specialist of books and manuscripts at Christie’s. “We knew it was an important piece. We were aware of its great rarity and were pretty confident it would appeal to several bidders at least.”
The manuscript, engraved with notes and all four stanzas of the song by Francis Scott Key, was printed in such a rush the publisher missed a typographical error in the title, mistakenly calling it a “pariotic song.”
First printed in Baltimore, the song became the U.S. anthem in 1931. Key’s verses were inspired by an attack by a British naval flotilla on Fort McHenry, whose flag flew throughout the bombardment.
Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Peter Bohan and Vicki Allen