An employee of Robert A. Siegel Galleries, Inc. points to...

An employee of Robert A. Siegel Galleries, Inc. points to an "authorized edition" of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln at Robert A. Siegel Galleries, Inc. (June 26, 2012) Credit: Charles Eckert

Billionaire David Rubenstein purchased an original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation Tuesday for $2.084 million, adding to his historic document collection.

Rubenstein, co-founder of the investment firm Carlyle Group, said he buys historic documents "to remind people of the great freedoms we have."

Rubenstein's agent made the winning bid at the Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, an Upper East Side auction house that specializes in rare stamps. Rubenstein will display the 1864 copy of the Emancipation Proclamation at a to-be-named public institution.

"I am a person who believes that Americans should know more about their history and how that history brought us enormous freedoms," Rubenstein said in a phone interview after making the winning bid.

Matted in a gilded wooden frame, it is one of the last remaining copies of the Emancipation Proclamation that President Abraham Lincoln signed with his full signature.

Lincoln signed 48 copies that were later sold to support the Sanitary Commission, a private relief agency that promoted clean and healthy conditions in Union Army camps during the Civil War.

"This document demonstrates with a stroke of the pen Lincoln's courage to do something no other president had done to lead a process toward the end of slavery," said Rubenstein. "He deserves to be remembered."

Another copy of the Emancipation Proclamation was sold for $3.7 million, the highest price ever, in 2010. That copy had been owned by Robert Kennedy, who bought it while he was attorney general and a champion of civil rights. "This influenced" the higher price, said Seth Kaller, the agent who bid on the document for Rubenstein.

Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. The executive order defined the Civil War's goals: to reunite a nation, accept slaves into the military, and support the movement to abolish slavery.

In 2007, Rubenstein bought an original copy of the Magna Carta for more than $20 million. The 700-year-old Magna Carta was seen by later generations as a cornerstone in developing a democratic England. It also was the inspiration for the U.S. Constitution. It is displayed inside the rotunda of the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Rubenstein earlier this year purchased a copy of the Declaration of Independence. It will go on display next week at the New York Historical Society in Manhattan.

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