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In Congress, July 4, 1776. The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America...

Washington D. C.,: W. J. Stone, Sc. [1823, printed by Peter Force,] 1848 Stock Code: 127460
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"An Expression of the American Mind"

Second impression of the most accurate and beautiful early printing of the founding document of the United States, made from Stone's copper plate which had been created via direct transmission from the original document. A striking commemoration of America's arrival as an independent nation, with the invocation of "those truths we hold self-evident."

In 1820 Secretary of State John Quincy Adams commissioned a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence from Washington printer-engraver William J. Stone. Over the next three years Stone worked on creating a copper plate for the printing of the facsimile, which was effected using the wet ink transfer process, which procedure removed much of the ink from the original and caused considerable degradation of the paper, leading to its near illegibility by the middle of the nineteenth century. From the plate produced at such cost, an edition of just 201 copies was run, printed on vellum and distributed according to a formula agreed by Congress, examples going to the surviving signers, the president and vice-president, Lafayette, the Houses of Congress, the state governors, and other worthy recipients, Stone retaining one copy which is now at the Smithsonian.

Of the original 201 copies, only 31 examples are currently known to exist, 19 of which are permanently housed in museums. The origins of the present facsimile go back to 1833, when historian and printer Peter Force was contracted by the Department of State, authorized by an Act of Congress, to produce a vast compilation to be known as the American Archives, expected to run to at least 20 volumes and containing legislative records, documents, and historic private correspondence, and including a facsimile of the Declaration inserted into vol. I, series 5. To this end Force used Stone's original copperplate - having erased the original imprint information which ran along the top, adding "W. J. Stone, SC, Washn." at the bottom left - printing on fine rice paper as close in colour and texture to the original parchment as possible. Against an authorized print-run of 1500, subscriptions were extremely disappointing, and estimates for the numbers issued of the 9 volumes produced by 1853 (which covered only the years 1774-1776) vary between 500 and 1000. Thereafter, Force was refused permission to continue the series and Congress looked into the distribution of existing sets "to literary institutions in the several States and Territories". What is certain is that only a few hundred copies of Force's facsimile are known to still exist. Although retaining the remains of the creases from insertion in the original volume, and with some trace of the consequent off-setting, this is a very good, clean, bright, example.

"The intent of the Declaration of Independence was not to formulate a new political philosophy but to explain in terms of already accepted ideas the justness of the colonists' action The philosophy of natural rights to which the Declaration looked for its main support had been used by Locke in 1690 to justify another revolution and had been further expanded by later writers most notably by Rousseau By 1776 it had gained wide enough acceptance that Jefferson could appeal to it as common sense, 'Neither aiming at originality of principles or sentiments, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind' It remains as a continuing embodiment of both an important historical event and of those truths we hold self-evident" (Printing and the Mind of Man).

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Folio broadside (753 x 640 mm), on rice paper. Presented in a handmade dark stained elm veneer and gold leaf frame with conservation acrylic glazing.


Creased where folded, minor paper flaws at left edge, just a touch of peripheral foxing, very light offsetting. In excellent condition.


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