If you have $80,000 to Drop, a First Edition of The Federalist Is Up For Auction

November 11th, 2014

first-federalistThis First Edition of the Federalist is up for auction for the low, low price of $80,000.

Lot 152
The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, Written in Favour of the New Constitution, as Agreed upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787
. New-York: Printed and sold by J. and A. M’Lean, 1788. First edition, signed on the title of volume I by Michael Hillegas, first Treasurer of the United States. Two volumes. Volume I in red gilt lettered library cloth, volume II in black gilt lettered library cloth. Vol. I: 6 1/2 x 3 7/8 inches (16.5 x 9.8 cm), retains 3 front blanks (the first with an early printed slip affixed attributing the essays, see below), vi, 227 pp. 2 rear blanks; Vol. II: 6 3/8 x 3 3/4 inches (16.2 x 9.5 cm), later blank, vi, 384 pp., rear blank, entry LXX misprinted as “LXXX” on page 240, the Constitution printed at end. The title page signed faintly in ink by Hillegas and with neat ink initials attributing the first ten essays likely in Hillegas’ hand. Internally, a very fresh and clean copy with minor flaws including some chipping to blanks and minor chipping to titles, faint ownership stamps of the Bar Association to titles as well as two very small and faint stains to title, faint numbers stamped on final leaf of Vol II, very intermittent short closed tears to a few margins, some toning, Cc3 in vol 2. with a small repair.

A superb association: this copy bears the signature of patriot Michael Hillegas, who had overseen the finances of the American Revolution and was the first Treasurer of the United States in the period before the ratification of the Constitution and the appointment of Alexander Hamilton as the first Secretary of the Treasury. Michael Hillegas (1729-1804) was Philadelphia born and served ten years in the General Assembly before being elected in 1775 to the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety alongside Benjamin Franklin. Hillegas and Franklin were frequent correspondents, especially during Franklin’s tenure in Paris during the Revolution. In 1776, Hillegas and George Clymer were jointly named Treasurer of the United Colonies, but Clymer left the post shortly thereafter to become a delegate to the Continental Congress. Hillegas remained Treasurer for the duration of the war and the period immediately following, his title changing in 1783 from Continental Treasurer to United States Treasurer. It was not until late 1789, after the appointment of Hamilton as the first Secretary of the Treasury, that Hillegas was replaced.
The Federalist presents the arguments for ratification in essays by Hamilton, Madison and Jay, though Hamilton is often viewed as the key promoter of Federalism. Thus, the present is a highly evocative and germane association copy of The Federalist for its tangible link between the fledgling governments of the Revolution, the Congress of the Confederation, and the creation and adoption of the Constitution, which ushered in the Federal era. While Hamilton is most associated with the establishment of the Treasury Department, the fourteen year service of Hillegas cannot be diminished as he oversaw the payment of the Continental Army, the collection of taxes during the Revolution, the payment of Franklin and other agents of the United States while abroad, and other difficult tasks associated with fiscally uniting the colonies into states. An interesting feature of this copy is the neatly penned initials of the authors of the first ten essays, a feature noted by Church in Hamilton’s own copy of the book. Also present is an early printed slip addressed to a Mr. Oldschool (likely excised from acirca 1804 newspaper) attributing the essays as per the notations found in Hamilton’s copy of The Federalist upon his death. Important association copies of the work are scarce at auction particularly when the owner was as prominent as Hillegas. Sabin 23979; Howes H114; Printing and the Mind of Man 234; Church 1230; Evans 21127; Streeter Sale 1049.