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By Dan Fastenberg | Reuters

NEW YORK – An extremely rare official printed first edition copy of the U.S. Constitution will be auctioned by Sotheby’s in mid-November, the auction house announced on Friday.

Announcing the upcoming sale of the document on the 234th anniversary of its signing by delegates to the Constitutional Convention, Sotheby’s estimated its value between $ 15 million and $ 20 million.

“This is the official printing, the first printing of the final text of the Constitution of the United States made probably on the evening of September 16, 1787, solely for the use of delegates to the Continental Convention and for the use of the Congress of in the United States, ”said Selby Kiffer, senior specialist in books and manuscripts at Sotheby’s.

“It is the only one that is not in a permanent institutional collection.”

It last sold for $ 165,000 in 1988, when it was acquired by the late S. Howard Goldman, a New York real estate developer and private collector of American autographs, historical documents and manuscripts.

His wife, Dorothy Tapper Goldman, is offering it for sale, and all proceeds will be donated to the charitable foundation created in her name to raise awareness of democracy among the public, the auction house said.

Copies of this first impression, bearing no signature and believed to have originally numbered approximately 500, were provided to delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Two surviving copies are held in the Library of Congress.

The first impression of the Constitution is considerably rarer than even the first edition of the Declaration of Independence of 1776, Sotheby’s said.

It contains only the original seven articles establishing the framework of the US national government and its powers, relations with states and the procedures used to ratify and amend the Constitution itself thereafter.

The Bill of Rights, made up of the first 10 amendments added to the Constitution, did not come into effect until 1791.

Although unsigned, the six-page document includes a list of delegates to the Constitutional Convention attesting to its adoption in 1787 and a letter of submission from George Washington, who chaired the convention.

Considered the oldest codified government charter in the world, the United States Constitution was designed to replace the young nation’s first largely ineffective charter, the Articles of Confederation.

It was ratified by the states in 1788 and entered into force the following year. It has since been modified 27 times.

Sotheby’s said the Goldman copy would be offered for a bid at an event in New York in November.

“There has been heated debate over whether or not it should be ratified,” Kiffer said. “And these debates continue today. It is the founding document which will last, I think, well beyond the current political atmosphere.