Book containing George Washington's copy of Constitution fetches nearly $10M

A book owned by George Washington and containing his own annotated copy of the Constitution sold for almost $10 million at Christie's, more than three times what it was expected to draw.

A fierce bidding war between two unidentified parties forced the price up, and applause erupted in the venerable auction house when the hammer came down and the 223-year-old book sold for $9,826,500 to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association.

The Acts of Congress volume includes a copy of the Constitution, a draft of the Bill of Rights, and acts creating the executive, State and Treasury department. The book was printed for him 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


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The 106-page leather-bound book has many personal annotations. Inside, Washington noted carefully in the margins. On the title page, his family crest along with the motto mindexitus acta probat (the ends justify the means) are printed. Next to the crest, "G. Washington" is signed.

"He clearly read it and annotated it to mark on his power. It's almost as though he used this book as a guide," 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 $13 — about $277 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 $27,000--about $200,000 today.

"An item of this quality would attract collectors of Americana and non-collectors because of its rarity. It's extraordinary," DiRuggiero said.

The Mount Vernon's Ladies Association owns and maintains Washington's Mount Vernon estate. The association is the oldest national historic preservation organization in the United States.