Constitution

A first printing of the U.S. Constitution is displayed at Sotheby’s auction house during a press preview Nov. 5 in New York. The rare copy sold Nov. 18 for a record $43.2 million.

A rare copy of the U.S. Constitution has been sold at auction for a record price and will be lent to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, for public viewing.

The copy of the first printing of the final text of the Constitution sold last week at a live auction by Sotheby’s New York for $43.2 million, more than double its $20 million estimate. The auction giant said it set a world auction record for any book, manuscript, historical document or printed text.

“(The) sale of this exceptionally rare and important printing of the Constitution was a monumental and historic occasion,” said Selby Kiffer, Sotheby’s senior international specialist for books and manuscripts, in a statement. “The Constitution needs little introduction as one of the most influential and significant historical documents ever conceived, and (the auction) result reflects how relevant it remains 234 years later — not only in America but for global democracy.”

The buyer, hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin, will lend the document to the Crystal Bridges, Sotheby’s said.

“The U.S. Constitution is a sacred document that enshrines the rights of every American and all those who aspire to be,” said Griffin, founder and CEO of multinational hedge fund Citadel, in a statement. “That is why I intend to ensure that this copy of our Constitution will be available for all Americans and visitors to view and appreciate in our museums and other public spaces.”

The media relations department at Crystal Bridges, which earlier this month celebrated the 10th anniversary of its opening in Northwest Arkansas, said there are currently no firm exhibition plans in place, although the document will be displayed sometime in 2022.

“We are honored to exhibit one of the most important documents in our nation’s history from our location in the heartland of America,” museum board chairperson Olivia Walton said in a statement.

The document is one of just 13 known copies of the official printing of the Constitution produced for the delegates to the Constitutional Convention and for the Continental Congress, Sotheby’s said. It also is one of only two copies of the first printing that remains in private hands. It was last sold at auction in 1988 for $165,000.

According to Sotheby’s:

The previous world auction record for any book and manuscript was $30,802,500 for The Codex Leicester sold at Christie’s in 1994.

The previous world auction record for any historical document was $21.3 million for the 1297 Magna Carta sold at Sotheby’s in 2007.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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