The first-edition copy of The Federalist on display at the Kirby Center is one of only 500 copies commissioned by Alexander Hamilton in 1787.

Within months of Federalist No. 1 appearing in New York's The Independent Journal on October 27, 1787, Hamilton asked the Journal's editors, John and Archibald McLean, to print a collection of the essays to influence the debate over the ratification of the Constitution. Fifty copies, for instance, would be sent to Richmond to persuade delegates to Virginia's state ratification convention.

Originally planned as a compilation of 20-25 essays, The Federalist soon grew to 85 essays in two volumes. The first volume, published March 22, 1788, contained papers 1-36. The second volume, published May 28, included papers 37-85. The two volumes were occasionally bound together, as is the case with this rare copy.

The book is currently housed in the Kirby Center's Lincoln Parlor. Visitors to Hillsdale College's Kirby Center can view this original copy of The Federalist thanks to the generous donation of the Mark R. Levin family.