The Declaration of Independence
(JG Autographs watermark does not appear on the actual item, only our online scan)
About this Item:
The Declaration of Independence, Peter Force copperplate engraving, printed in 1848, with remarkably exact renditions of the signers’ hands. One of the best representations of the original manuscript Declaration, perhaps as few as 500 copies issued. This Force printing, the second edition of the first exact facsimile, remains one of the best representations of the Declaration as the manuscript looked over 150 years ago, prior to its nearly complete deterioration – very little of the original is legible today.
Peter Force (1790-1868), noted archivist and historian who compiled 'The American Archives,' originally planned as a series of more than twenty folio volumes publishing the most important original materials from American history, from the 17th century through 1789. Authorized by Congress in 1833, the first volume was published in 1837. The project was abruptly canceled in 1853 by Secretary of State William Learned Marcy, and Force ultimately sold his enormous collection of documents to the Library of Congress for $100,000.
By 1820 the original Declaration of Independence (now housed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.) showed serious signs of age and wear from handling. John Quincy Adams, then Secretary of State, commissioned William J. Stone to engrave an exact copy of the original onto a copper plate. In 1823, Congress ordered 200 official copies printed on vellum. Fewer than 40 of Stone’s printing on vellum are known to have survived, with at least 21 of those housed in institutions and public collections. “These copies are characterized by the legend engraved in the left superior portion of the document which reads, ‘ENGRAVED BY W.I. STONE for the Dept. of State by order,’ and on the right superior portion ‘Of J.Q. Adams, Sec. of State July 4, 1823.’ This legend was removed after the parchment copies were struck and in the lower left quadrant, the engraver placed his name, ‘W.J. Stone, SC WAShnn’” (Coleman, 98). All subsequent exact facsimiles of the Declaration descend from the Stone plate. In 1843 Congress commissioned Force to compile and publish 'The American Archives.' Perhaps using the Stone’s original plate at first, but then most likely a copy plate, Force prepared prints of the Declaration of Independence on special thin rice paper. Congress authorized the printing of 1500 copies of 'American Archives,' but subscriptions for the elaborate edition were disappointing, and in the end many fewer copies—perhaps as few as 500—were issued. Most, including this copy, were folded and bound into 'Volume I, Series Five,' published in 1848.
This authentic, original document, with a finished size of 26" x 29" is a copperplate engraving on thin rice paper. As indicated it had been folded down to 8" x 13.625" and the fold marks are visible. Overall in fine condition with stated fold marks, moderate cracking and professional restoration along its edges.
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