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Constitution and Bill of Rights

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Ratification of The Bill of Rights

[BILL OF RIGHTS], Newspaper. Columbian Centinel, March 14, 1792. Boston, Mass.: Benjamin Russell. 4 pp., 10½ x 16½ in.


Item #25046, SOLD — please inquire about other items

The Declaration of Independence
The Official Massachusetts Broadside (SOLD)

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE], Broadside. “Salem, Massachusetts-Bay: Printed by E. [Ezekiel] Russell, by Order of Authority,” ca. July 20, 1776. Approximately 15¾ x 19¾ in.


Item #22379, SOLD — please inquire about other items

John Binns Scarce and Most Decorative Early 19th century (1819) Declaration of Independence Facsimile

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE], Engraved Broadside. “In Congress July 4th. 1776. The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.” [Philadelphia:] John Binns, 1819. Text engraved by C.H. Parker, facsimiles of signatures engraved by Tanner, Vallance, Kearny & Co. Ornamental border incorporating the seals of the thirteen original states after Thomas Sully. Medallion portrait of Washington (after Gilbert Stuart, 1795), Jefferson (after Otis, 1816), and Hancock (after Copley, 1765). 24½ x 34½ in.


Item #23834.99, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Declaration of Independence William Stone/Peter Force Facsimile, 1833 (SOLD)

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, Copperplate engraving printed on thin wove paper. Imprint at bottom left, “W. J. STONE SC WASHn” [William J. Stone for Peter Force, Washington, D.C. ca. 1833]. Printed for Peter Force’s American Archives, Series 5, Vol I. 25¼ x 30⅞ in.


Item #24402, SOLD — please inquire about other items

The Declaration of Independence – Rare July 1776 Massachusetts Spy Printing with Paul Revere Masthead (SOLD)

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, Newspaper. The Massachusetts Spy, Or, American Oracle of Liberty. Published by Isaiah Thomas, printed by W. Stearns and D. Bigelow, Worcester, Mass., July 17, 1776. Vol. 6, no. 273.


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

This issue of Worcester’s Massachusetts Spy is one of the most attractive and displayable contemporary newspaper printings of the Declaration of Independence. In addition to having the complete text on page one, the elaborate masthead—unusual for the period—was engraved by Paul Revere and features an image of Liberty seated with a pole and cap. The motto, “Undaunted by Tyrants we’ll DIE or be FREE” makes clear the newspaper’s fervent support of the patriotic cause. The Spy gave many in “western Massachusetts” their first view of America’s immortal founding document – even before it became ‘unanimous.’[1]

Item #23800, SOLD — please inquire about other items

The First Engraving of the Declaration of Independence - The Only Known of the 3 Ordered on Linen (SOLD)

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE]. BENJAMIN OWEN TYLER, Broadside on linen, engraved by Peter Maverick, [Washington, 1818], approximately 24½ x 31 in.


“To Thomas Jefferson, Patron of the Arts, the firm Supporter of American Independence, and the Rights of Man, this Charter of Freedom is, with the highest esteem, most Respectfully Inscribed by his much Obliged and very Humble Servant Benjamin Owen Tyler.”

Benjamin Owen Tyler’s engraving was the first decorative print of the Declaration. A self-taught calligrapher and instructor of penmanship, Tyler copied and designed the text of the Declaration, and made exact copies (facsimilies) of the signatures from the engrossed manuscript. The exactness of his work is particularly impressive given the limitations of copying them freehand prior to engraving on a copper plate. Richard Rush, son of the signer Benjamin Rush and acting Secretary of State in 1817, gave a strong endorsement which is printed on the bottom left corner.

Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, John Calhoun, and Daniel Tompkins are among the many notables who ordered copies in advance.

Tyler’s subscription book was donated by Albert Small to the University of Virginia, and now can be viewed online. After extensive study, we count approximately 1650 orders for copies on paper at $5 each, and 40 for copies on vellum at $7 each. 3 noted special orders on silk, 2 of which are known to survive. Only 3 were ordered on linen, of which this is the only copy known to survive. Silk and linen copies also apparently cost $7 each. The three purchasers of premium copies on linen were John G.[?] Camp, Buffalo, N.Y., J. C. Spencer, Canandaigua, NY and John Savage, Salem, N.Y. We don’t know which of the original subscribers ours belonged to, but it does have distinguished provenance, selling in 1979 in the Nathaniel E. Stein auction at Sotheby Parke Bernet, January 30, 1979, lot 47. Stein also owned Tyler’s subscription book, lot 46.

Item #23754, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Bill of Rights: September 1789 Printing with Penultimate Text of 2nd Amendment (SOLD)

[BILL OF RIGHTS], Newspaper. Gazette of the United States. New York: John Fenno, September 23, 1789. 4 pp., 10 x 16 ½ in. Disbound.


“Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith, or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion,or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition to the government for a redress of grievances.”

After the House of Representatives proposed seventeen amendments (“Articles”), the Senate took up the debate and reduced the number to twelve. Even after the reduction, the House and Senate continued wrangling over language, especially in the third article (which would become the First Amendment) and the eighth article regarding trials (which would become the Sixth Amendment).

The Proceedings of Congress report in this issue bears the same September 23 date as the paper itself, but that is unlikely; the House and Senate Journals do not reflect any debate on amending the Constitution that day. Instead, this is most likely the working draft of September 21. It reflects language at the time the House agreed to ten points proposed earlier by the Senate. The House and Senate remained in disagreement and established a conference to resolve sixteen other points of disagreement.

On September 24, the House dropped its objections to the sixteen points, insisting only on changes in the third and eighth articles. Agreement on these two areas established the final text of the Bill of Rights. The Senate concurred on September 25, and the House re-affirmed its approval on September 28th when at least one engrossed copy was signed, marking the Bill of Rights’ final legislative hurdle before being sent to the states for ratification.

Item #30020.05, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Declaration of Independence Centennial (SOLD)

[HARPER’S WEEKLY], Newspaper. July 8, 1876.


The July 8, 1876 issue of Harper’s Weekly, containing a supplement celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, complete with a centerspread facsimile of one of Jefferson’s draft manuscripts and the signatures of the signers, along with related engravings.

Item #30011.003, SOLD — please inquire about other items

The Declaration of Independence:
The First Newspaper Printing, the Second Publication in Any Form and the First to Closely Follow Thomas Jefferson’s Style (SOLD)

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE], Newspaper. The Pennsylvania Evening Post, Saturday, July 6, 1776, Philadelphia: Benjamin Towne, 4 pages (8½ x 10 in.)


Item #DOI - 7-6-1776, SOLD — please inquire about other items

The Declaration of Independence –
Rare July 1776 Boston Printing (SOLD)

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, The New-England Chronicle, July 18, 1776, Vol. VIII No. 413. Newspaper, with the entire text of the Declaration on page 1 of 4. Subscriber’s name “Mr Jacob Willard” written at top of page 1. Boston: Printed by Powars & Willis.


Item #21074, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Declaration of Independence - Huntington Printing (SOLD)

ELEAZER HUNTINGTON, Engraved Document. Ca. 1820-1825. 20 x 24½ in.


Scarce early engraving of the Declaration of Independence.

Item #21539, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Bill of Rights - After James Madison’s Initial Proposals, the First Congressional Draft: The Report of the Committee of Eleven (SOLD)

[BILL OF RIGHTS], Newspaper. Gazette of the United States. August 1, 1789. New York: John Fenno. 4 pp. (125-128), 10 x 16 in.


To ensure ratification of the Constitution, the founding fathers promised that Congress would address guarantees of specific liberties in their first session. After a list of minor textual changes, a series of protections beginning with “No religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed” followed by “The freedom of speech, and of the press, and the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and consult for their common good, and to apply to the government for the redress of grievances shall not be infringed” goes on to enumerate most of what would become the Bill of Rights. This is the Report of Mr. Vining and the Committee of Eleven “to whom it was referred to take the subject of Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, generally into their consideration...”  in essence the first Congressional draft of the Bill of Rights submitted to the House of Representatives. Several weeks later, the whole House would take up the Committee report pass an official draft of 17 amendments. The fine-tuning between House and Senate versions would continue for the rest of the Congressional session. But the initial report of the Committee of Eleven was the first time the enumerated amendments were revealed.

Item #23567, SOLD — please inquire about other items

First Draft of the Bill of Rights:
17 Amendments Approved by the House (SOLD)

[BILL OF RIGHTS], The Connecticut Gazette. September 4, 1789 (Vol. XXVI, no. 1347). New-London, Connecticut. 4 pp.


Remarkable full printing of the seventeen amendments to the Constitution approved by the House of Representatives on August 24th. Ultimately, ten of these amendments would be ratified by the states as the Bill of Rights. On May 4, 1789, two months into the first session of the First Federal Congress, James Madison had announced to the House of Representatives that he intended to propose amendments that would guarantee basic civil rights. The absence of such language had almost waylaid acceptance of the Constitution. In the end, New York and several other states had agreed to ratify the Constitution with the understanding that a Bill of Rights would be added at a later date.

Item #20650.12, SOLD — please inquire about other items

One of the Last Drafts of the Bill of Rights (SOLD)

[BILL OF RIGHTS], Newspaper, New-York Daily Gazette. New York: Archibald M’lean, Friday, September 18, 1789. 4 pp.


“Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America … That the following articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States….”

Very rare printing of twelve proposed amendments to the Constitution, as approved by the Senate on September 9, 1789, but not yet reconciled with the House. Article 3, guaranteeing freedom of religion, underwent the most substantial changes between this and the final version ten days later. 

Item #22100, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Final Version of the Bill of Rights
as Sent to the States with 12 Proposed Amendments (SOLD)

[BILL OF RIGHTS], Newspaper. Providence Gazette and Country Journal. October 24, 1789, Providence, R.I. 4 pp., 10½ x 15 in. The complete text of the Bill of Rights is on pp 2-3.


Item #22997, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Extremely Rare U.S. Constitution—Printed by Albany Federalists to Influence the Election of Delegates to New York’s Bitterly Divided Ratification Convention

[UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION], Articles Agreed upon by the Federal Convention of the United States of America, his Excellency George Washington, Esq; President. In Convention, September 17, 1787…”. Albany: Printed for the Federal Committee by Claxton & Babcock at the Federal Printing Office, [c. March 1788]. 4 pp., 8.66 x 13.6 in. Several numbers penned on the fourth page. Unrecorded in Evans or Bristol.


We, the People, of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.…”

By 1787, Americans had realized that thirteen independent state governments within a weak association could not stand on their own. The Federal Convention was called, and met in Philadelphia, to improve the Articles of Confederation. The delegates soon agreed that small fixes would not do. Though they were not authorized to propose an entirely new structure of government, they laid one out anyway. Their first draft of the preamble began, “We the people of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts....” (naming the 13 states). Their second draft was revised to the now familiar “We, the People of the United States...”

They completed and signed the engrossed manuscript on September 17, 1787. The next day, they sent it, with two cover letter resolutions signed by George Washington, to the Confederation Congress in New York, asking the members to accept it without any changes and to send it to the states for ratification. After three remarkable days of debate, the Representatives of the United States in Congress Assembled agreed.

Over the next ten months, Americans engaged in vigorous debate. Ultimately, the danger of continuing under too weak a government to deal with real problems won out over the fear of government too powerful for its own citizens to be free. Thus, the United States of America was founded by the Constitution, which can also be considered a Declaration of Interdependence. It is not just history, but also technology—a tool for the practical application of knowledge and ingenuity to solve problems.

The Constitution is printed here preceded by the Constitutional Convention’s covering resolution signed by George Washington, submitting the Constitution to Congress with the assurance that “the constitution which we now present, is the result of a spirit of amity,” which “we hope and believe may promote the lasting welfare of that country so dear to us all, and secure her freedom and happiness.”

“It is obviously impracticable in the federal government of these States, to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interest and safety of all—: Individuals entering into society, must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest… It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered, and those which may be reserved... this difficulty was encreased by a difference among the several States as to their situation, extent, habits, and particular interests.”

Item #27800, SOLD — please inquire about other items
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