Washington's Constitution Sells for $9.8M

New York - George Washington’s copy of a book recording early acts of the new U.S. Congress, which features his handwritten notes on the Constitution, went for $9.8 million at auction this week. The winning bid was placed in the saleroom by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.

Independent art collectors of Art Kabinett social network have seen a huge surge in prices of historic manuscripts.

Washington received the 106-page volume in 1789, his first year in office as U.S. president. It was a record of the momentous first session of Congress, March 4 to Sept. 29 that year.

The book, which sold at Christie’s, includes the ratified Constitution, the draft Bill of Rights and acts establishing the executive, state and treasury departments.

“They were busy,” said Chris Coover, Christie’s senior specialist for books and manuscripts, in a phone interview. “During that session they passed 90-some acts.”

The title page has Washington’s large signature and on another page is a bookplate bearing his motto, “Exitus acta probat” (“the end justifies the deed”), and his family coat of arms.

Washington wrote notes in the margins next to key passages concerning the president’s responsibilities.

“It shows his continued concerns that he do the right thing,” Coover said. “He was a very conscientious leader, and it’s part of his tremendous appeal today.”

The book comes from the estate of H. Richard Dietrich Jr., a collector of American painting and furniture, who bought it at auction for $27,000 in 1964.

In January, Christie’s sold for $782,500 a wine cooler that the president gave to Alexander Hamilton. A 1787 letter to his nephew Bushrod Washington on the ratification of the Constitution set a record for a Washington document of $3.2 million in 2009.