Rare first impression of the US Constitution is the most expensive text ever to be auctioned | Smart News



The rare document is one of only two first prints of the Constitution held by private collectors.
Ardon Bar-Hama / Courtesy of Sotheby’s

One of the first two private prints of the United States Constitution sold yesterday for $ 43.2 million, becoming the most expensive book, manuscript, historical document or printed text to ever auction , reports Sarah Cascone for Artnet news. The winning bid was more than double the pre-sale estimate of $ 15-20 million.

Sotheby’s Thursday night sale broke the record set by Bill Gates, who bought Leonardo da Vinci’s “Codex Leicester” notebook from Christie’s for $ 30.8 million in 1994 (around $ 57 million today). Kenneth Griffin, CEO of Citadel investment group, made the winning bid, according to a statement. He plans to loan the document to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, for free public display.

“The US Constitution is a sacred document that enshrines the rights of every American and all who aspire to be,” Griffin said in the statement. “That is why I intend to make this copy of our Constitution available to all Americans and visitors so that they can view and enjoy it in our museums and other public spaces.”

According to the auction listing, the first impression of the Constitution was made exclusively for delegates to the Constitutional Convention and members of the Continental Congress. The 1787 edition consisted of around 500 copies, of which only 13 are known to survive today. Eleven are kept in institutional collections.


The original print of the Constitution consisted of 500 copies.

Courtesy of Sotheby’s

After the convention ended in September 1787, many delegates sent copies to their colleagues. Some were used at state conventions when voting on the ratification of the Federal Constitution. Others ended up in print shops across the country, where printers made copies for local distribution.

Prior to the sale, cryptocurrency owners seeking to bid on the document created a collective known as ConstitutionDAO. (A DAO, or Decentralized Autonomous Organization, uses blockchain-based contracts to allow a group of individuals to collectively organize a project, including ownership and management of assets.) The group has funded $ 40 million. dollars in less than a week, reports Kevin Roose for the New York Times. Last month, a similar collective, PleasrDAO, purchased the Wu-Tang Clan album. Once upon a time in Shaolin for $ 4 million.

The Official ConstitutionDAO Twitter account confirmed Thursday that the collective was not the successful bidder. By a Message on Twitter, 17,437 people contributed to the effort, donating a median of $ 206.26.

“We are incredibly grateful to have done this with you and we are still in shock that we even made it this far,” the group said, adding that the project had made “people around the world” aware of the possibilities of fashions. decentralized organization of activities. on the Internet (a movement sometimes called web3).

Had ConstitutionDAO been successful in purchasing the copy of the Constitution, the organizers would have partnered with another group to display the document to the public for free. According to an FAQ on the group’s website, donors would have received a “governance token” allowing them to vote on “where the Constitution should be displayed, how it should be displayed, as well as the collective’s mission and values”.

“I thought the idea of ​​’for the people’ to be bought by the people was quite funny, and also quite historic,” said Christian Tirone, a filmmaker and 3D artist who donated to the project. Washington postit’s Rachel Lerman.

Dorothy Goldman, a collector of rare American prints, sold the copy of the Constitution. Her husband, real estate developer and collector S. Howard Goldman, bought it in 1988 for $ 165,000. He died in 1997. Proceeds from the sale will go to the Dorothy Tapper Goldman Foundation, which is dedicated to “better understanding our democracy and how the actions of all citizens can make a difference,” according to Sotheby’s.

“What we have tried to do is make the Constitution more accessible to the public,” said Anisha Sunkerneni, main organizer of ConstitutionDAO. the Wall Street newspaperby Kelly Crow and Omar Abdel-Baqui. “While we may not have completely accomplished this, I think we’ve raised enough awareness to illustrate that a DAO is another option.”



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