Inscribed by Bushrod C. Washington, Exceedingly Rare in the Original Boards[Bushrod Washington]. [American Constitutions]. The Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America; The Declaration of Independence; The Articles of Confederation between the Said States; The Treaties Between his Most Christian and the United States of America. Published by order of Congress. Philadelphia: Printed by Francis Bailey, 1781.
First edition of the first collected constitutions of the states, one of only 200 copies printed. Page two states: "In Congress, December 29, 1780. Resolved, That a Committee of three be appointed to collect and cause to be published, two hundred correct copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, the Alliances between these United States and his Most Christian Majesty, with the Constitutions or Forms of Government of the several States, to be bound together in boards. The members chosen, Mr. Bee, Mr. Witherspoon, and Mr. Wolcott. Extract from the Minutes, Charles Thomson, Secretary." Small octavo. , 226 pages.
Original paper-covered drab boards, uncut. Housed in a custom cloth box with leather spine label lettered in gilt. Paper-covered boards are stained and worn, losing the paper in places, mostly around the edges and at the top of the boards. Top edge of front board with small gouge that accounts for half-an-inch of loss. Paper of spine is perished, exposing the signature edges and cords that are now browned and stained. Some staining and soiling, especially to the tops of the first fifty pages or so, including the title page and endpaper. Minor scattered foxing otherwise. Impression and ghost of small paper clip to the top edges of pages 195 to 200. Small piece torn away from corners of pages 165/166, 177/178 (not quite touching the page numbers). All in all, a very good copy.
Inscribed on the front pastedown by Bushrod C. Washington: "Allotted to me in the [library of] My Fathers Books, Bushd C. Washington." Bushrod C. Washington was the nephew and heir of Supreme Court Justice Bushrod Washington, who was himself the nephew and heir of George Washington and the owner of Mount Vernon. Extremely rare in the original boards, we could not locate another copy in boards at auction for almost 100 years.
Also inscribed on the first page of text by Arthur Lee: "A. Lee." Arthur Lee was the younger brother of two signers of the Declaration of Independence, Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention from Virginia, and a confidential agent in Europe for the Continental Congress, helping to secure war materiel for the American army. His name is actually the last to appear in this book, as he was the last to sign the Treaty of Alliance with France in 1778, which appears as the last document here.
Lee, who died in 1792, likely gave this book to someone in the Washington family, either to Bushrod, George, or possibly John Augustine, and it is conceivable that the book once resided in the library at Mount Vernon, and was subsequently passed down through Bushrod Washington's heirs.
Interestingly, at three separate points in the Charter of Rhode Island, someone -- presumably Arthur Lee -- has crossed through the "edict" in "Benedict Arnold" and written "jamin" to make the name "Benjamin." The Arnold referred to in the charter was the first governor of the colony of Rhode Island, who was actually named Benedict Arnold, and was the great-grandfather of the Revolutionary traitor. The last line of this charter is also crossed out with short diagonal lines.
"The first authoritative and original printed text of these important documents" (Sabin, p. 448). Consigned by the heirs of George Washington, John Augustine Washington, and Bushrod Washington.
Evans 17390. Howes C716. Sabin 16086.
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