Even after 223 years, George Washington’s personal copy of the “Acts of Congress,” including the Constitution and draft Bill of Rights, is in “near pristine” condition. Washington’s notes concerning his presidential responsibilities are clearly visible in the margins of the volume, whose cover is embossed in gold with “President of the United States.” When it comes up for auction tomorrow at Sotheby’s in New York, the book is expected to sell for a presidential $2m-$3m.
Update: Propelled by telephone bidders and several in the auction room, the price of Washington’s copy of the Constitution rose to $9.8m, more than three times its high estimate. The buyer was the Mt Vernon Ladies Association, who will return it to the library at Mt. Vernon, where it resided until 1876.A New York bookbinder, Thomas Allen, printed and bound the volume in 1789 especially for the President. Washington’s personal bookplate and motto, “Exitus acta probat” (“the end justifies the means”) are fixed to the book’s endpaper, and on the title-page he signed a bold “G”: Washington.” For some 77 years after Washington’s death in 1799, the book remained in the library at Mt. Vernon, but in 1876 it was first sold at auction, along with a number of other Washington volumes. This time around, it’s being offered by estate of noted Americana collector Richard Dietrich, Jr.