The one-page letter from soon-to-be US president George Washington to Thomas Jefferson sold by Freeman’s for $1.95m (£1.6m).

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This sentence was part of a one-page letter from soon-to-be US president George Washington to Thomas Jefferson.

He wrote it the day after the completion and signing of the constitution at a convention in Philadelphia in 1787.

Offered in Freeman’s (26/31% buyer’s premium) Books and Manuscripts: Rare Americana sale on November 15, the personal letter announces its adoption and refers to a copy of the document.

Against an estimate of $1m-1.5m, it sold for a hammer price of $1.95m (£1.6m) in Philadelphia to a private American collector who plans to make it publicly viewable in due course.

Military matters

On the same day, the most expensive lot at Bonhams New York (27.5/26/20/14.5% buyer’s premium), at $200,000 (£168,350), was a document of 1776 in which Washington issued instructions to General Lee, who then was in command of the largest portion of the Continental Army.

Funding delay

An actual copy of the constitution was to be offered at Sotheby’s New York on December 13.

However, the sale was postponed at the last minute to provide institutions time to raise additional funds for a possible acquisition.

A Sotheby’s spokesman said: “Given the historical significance and importance of the Constitution, and following an enthusiastically received exhibition at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, it is fitting the sale has attracted strong institutional interest, and a sale update will be communicated in due time.”

As adopted by the USA’s founding fathers at the Philadelphia convention, the document is one of just 13 known copies of the official printing produced for the delegates to the Constitutional Convention and the Continental Congress.

Estimated ahead of the auction at $20m-30m, it last appeared at auction in Philadelphia in 1894, as part of the legendary collection of Charles Colcock Jones, a Georgia lawyer, politician, and amateur historian. It was bought for collector Adrian Van Sinderen (1887-1963).

This update comes just over a year after Sotheby’s sold another first-edition printed copy of the US constitution for a hammer price of $41m (£30.4m).

This version, sold in November 2021, was bought by hedge fund billionaire Kenneth Griffin, founder and CEO of US investment firm Citadel, who agreed to loan it to Crystal Bridges Museum of American art in Arkansas for public exhibition. He out-bid a group of cryptocurrency enthusiasts called ConstitutionDAO who crowdfunded a sum of $40m.

These two editions are the only two copies of the first printing of the constitution currently owned privately.