There it was, a long sheet of off-white something-or-other, which turned out to be vellum, which, in the mid-19th century, was made from the skin or a calf or a goat.
A clear plastic case sheltered it so that no one could touch or even breathe on it. Who knew the Constitution of the Confederacy was so long—12 and a half feet long, written in an elegant hand—by T.R.R. Cobb—with a riot of signatures under that of Howell Cobb, who presided over its adoption.
The Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library brings out the Constitution once a year. When it's not under its case, being viewed by hordes of people in the Special Collections Library, it's kept in a high security vault, accessible by only five people.
Here's how the document came to UGA:
This manuscript was part of a wagon load of boxes rescued from the railroad station in Chester, S.C. in April of 1865 by Felix G. DeFontaine, a newspaper correspondent during the war. The boxes, which had been abandoned by fleeing troops, contained the records of the Confederate government, which were being sent south after the evacuation of Richmond. The prizes among the records which DeFontaine recovered were the two Constitutions of the Confederacy, Provisional and Permanent.
DeFontaine sold the manuscript copy of the Provisional Constitution at auction in New York in 1883. It is now in the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. He sold the manuscript copy of the Permanent Constitution to Mrs. George Wymberley Jones DeRenne on July 4, 1883. The University of Georgia purchased the Constitution from the DeRenne family in 1939.
If you missed seeing it, don't worry—there's always next year.