Limited edition copies of the Emancipation Proclamation delivered on January 1, 1863 and the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery two years later, were issued by the man many still consider the greatest US president.
Sotheby’s, which conducted the sale on Wednesday, said the copy of the 13th amendment sold for $2.4 million, while the proclamation was snapped up by a telephone bidder for $2.17 million. Both documents are framed.
Lincoln signed the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States, on February 1, 1865 in the culmination of 70 years of discord over the status of slaves.
The copy sold is one of 14 signed by Lincoln, his vice president, the speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax and in this case, by 36 senators.
In the proclamation, Lincoln ordered that all people held as slaves “henceforward shall be free.”
The emancipation immediately set as many as 50,000 men, women and children free, and transformed the mission of the American Civil War from one of restoration of the Union to one of liberation.
Signed copies of the proclamation were advertised for $10 each in 1864 and sold to benefit the United States Sanitary Commission, considered a forbearer of both the Red Cross and the United Service Organization, Sotheby’s said.
The auction house said prior to the sale that the documents “represent crucial milestones” in American history and remain pertinent today amid renewed debate about racism in the United States.
Lincoln’s historical importance and the enormous regard that he commands frequently translate into high prices on the auction block.
In 2009, a manuscript of a Lincoln speech urging the country to unite amid civil war sold in New York for $3.4 million, which Christie’s said was then a record for a US historical document.
Last November, the final passage of his second inaugural address, which Lincoln wrote out and signed for a 10-year-old child weeks before he was assassinated in a theater in April 1865, sold in New York for $2.2 million.