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George Washington's original copy of the Acts of Congress sells for 9.8 million USD

posted 22 Jun 2012, 13:53 by Mpelembe   [ updated 22 Jun 2012, 13:54 ]

The sale of George Washington's annotated copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights from 1789 sets a new record for any Washington book or manuscript.

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (JUNE 22, 2012) (REUTERS) - History was made and sold at Christie's auction house in New York on Friday (June 22) with the sale of George Washington's annotated copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The Mount Vernon Ladies Association placed the winning 8.7 million USD (6,960,000 EUR) bid, which sets a record for any Washington document or manuscript and for an American book or historical document. The final price with commission totals was $9,826,500 million.

"We are thrilled on behalf of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association that we will bring this extraordinary book that belonged to George Washington back to Mount Vernon where it belongs. It's going to be the centerpiece of our library which we are opening in the fall of 2013," said Ann Bookout, the Chairman of the Board for the association.

The group is a not-for-profit organization that has maintained and operated the estate of Washington in Virginia since 1858 and accepts no government funding.

"We have wonderful donors and patriot Americans who are supporting us. And we're only proud to bring it home to Mount Vernon - this is a thrilling day," Bookout told reporters.

Chris Coover, the senior specialist in book and manuscripts at Christie's, is thrilled the book will remain in the U.S: "It's been away from its home since 1876, so it's a long wait."

Early estimates had the books going for only 2-3 million dollars, however auctioneer John Hayes said Washington's popularity is near priceless.

"Every time an object that has to do with George Washington comes up, whether it's a book or his pistols or a painting, George Washington is still the man," said Hayes.

"It's just a reminder to us that this experiment called America, right at the beginning was truly a moment in time that has not really been repeated. And this demonstrates, and the price demonstrates that people are aware of just how precious it is," he added.

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.