A BOOK with first US president George Washington’s own copy of the US Constitution has sold for almost $10 million.
The book owned by America’s first president and Revolutionary War general Washington and containing his annotated copy of the US Constitution sold more than three times what it had been expected to draw yesterday.
A fierce bidding war forced the price up, and applause erupted in the venerable auction house when the hammer came down as the 223-year-old book sold for $US9,826,500 ($9,759,459).
FOX News Channel reported it was sold to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, which owns and maintains Washington’s historic home and popular tourist attraction Mount Vernon.
The Acts of Congress volume includes a copy of the US Constitution, a draft of the US Bill of Rights, and acts creating the executive, State and Treasury departments. The book was printed for Washington in 1789 and is in nearly-pristine condition.
“There are four bound copies for members of the government, but the George Washington provenance makes this by far the best of all,” co-owner of Manhattan Rare Books Company Michael DiRuggiero told FoxNews.com.
The 106-page leather-bound book has many personal annotations.
Inside, Washington noted carefully in the margins. On the title page, his family crest is printed along with the motto “mindexitus acta probat” (the ends justify the means). Next to the crest is the signature “G. Washington.”
“He clearly read it and annotated it to mark on his power. It’s almost as though he used this book as a guide,” Mr DiRuggiero said.
The book remained at Mount Vernon until 1876, when it was sold by Lawrence Washington, George Washington’s nephew, at a Philadelphia auction house in 1876 for $US13 – about $US277 in today’s dollars.
The book was later owned by the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, and in 1964, it was sold to businessman H. Richard Dietrich Jr. for $US27,000 – about $US200,000 today.
“An item of this quality would attract collectors of Americana and non-collectors because of its rarity. It’s extraordinary,” Mr DiRuggiero said.
Piece of history: Americans queue for a glimpse of first US president George Washington’s own copy of the US constitution. Inside is the family crest and motto “The ends justify the means”. Picture: AFP