It was published in 1788 and has been described as a work that served as a cornerstone of the new nation’s theory of government, but was written initially “…to meet the immediate need of convincing the reluctant New York State electorate of the necessity of ratifying the newly proposed Constitution of the United States”.
Given to a diplomat
In a March 4 auction held by Heritage (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) in New York a ‘thick paper’ copy that Madison gave to James Maury, an American diplomat and consul in Europe, sold for $250,000 (£195,315). The binding was contemporary but lacked both spines.
Only two examples have made more. In 2015 Christie’s New York sold one at $260,000, but in 1990 a quite exceptional copy, that owned by George Washington, made a lot more as part of the great Bradley Martin library.
One of that small number of copies printed on thick paper, in a special calf gilt publisher’s presentation binding and bearing George Washington’s signature and bookplate in both volumes, it sold for $1.3m at Sotheby’s New York in 1990.