Sotheby's international auction house has sold an archive that includes the only known surviving handwritten draft of the Balfour Declaration, which eventually led to the creation of the state of Israel. An anonymous collector, bidding over the telephone, paid $884,000 for the archive.
The handwritten draft declaration is part of an archive of 175 documents pertaining to the formation of Israel that once belonged to Leon Simon.
Mr. Simon was a key member of the Zionist Political Committee that met at the Imperial Hotel in London on July 17, 1917, and drafted a text for British support of a Jewish state. David Redden, vice chairman of Sotheby's, says it is not clear if Mr. Simon was taking notes in an official capacity for the group.
"The notes are quite complete because he not only writes down the final draft of the declaration as composed by the Zionist organization, but he also lists all of the members present, he notes the date, he notes that copies should be sent to Lord Bryce and Winston Churchill," said David Redden.
The draft proposes that the British government accept the principle that Palestine be "reconstituted" as the National Homeland of the Jewish People.
The British war cabinet, led by Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, modified the document, and issued it on November 2, 1917. The Declaration includes a clause stating that "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine." David Redden calls it one of the crucial documents of the 20th century.
"It is the kind of document that, if you are involved with manuscripts and archival information, you like to have very much because it places the document exactly in the location were it was written and the time," he said. "It was on hotel stationery where the Zionist committee met on July 17, 1917. It is dated and it has a list of the members who were present."
The archive includes manuscripts and letters which document the formation of the Zionist Political Committee and different points of view within the group. It also includes a diary Leon Simon kept during a visit to Palestine in 1918 to begin coordinating Jewish affairs there and establish links between the Jewish and Arab communities.