Two constitutions make rare public appearances

National Constitution Center

Two constitutions—including one that is more than 12 feet long—with a ton of historic appeal have been making rare public appearances.

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Last year, George Washington’s personal version of the U.S. Constitution was sold at auction for $9.8 million. It was purchased by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union.

The association plans to make the folio, which includes the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Washington’s handwritten notes, the centerpiece of a new library that opens in late September at Mount Vernon.

Until then, the folio is going on tour at various presidential libraries around the country. Like the rock star it is, the folio has official tour dates established until September 21, 2013.

The document has made stops at the Reagan, Nixon, Ford, and Eisenhower libraries. Its final date is at the Truman Library in mid-September. In all, it will appear at 13 presidential libraries.

The folio caused quite a stir when it came up for auction last June. It had been owned by several private parties, including William Randolph Hearst. The pre-auction sale price had been estimated at $2 million to $3 million.

The other ultra-rare constitution was displayed for nine hours by a library in Georgia in late April.

It is one of two copies of the Constitution of the Confederate States, which is owned by the University of Georgia’s Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The state of Georgia donated the document to the university in 1939 after it was acquired from a private collection.

The document is very fragile and kept in a lined case in a rare-book room with tight security. It is more than 12 feet long and written on vellum (0r animal skin), not paper.

It was abandoned along with other Confederate documents in South Carolina in 1865 and found by a war correspondent, along with another version of the Confederate Constitution. Both were sold to private parties in 1883; the other constitution is now at a museum in Richmond, Virginia.

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