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Other Declaration of Independence Offerings


Other Books Offerings


July 8, 1776 – The First Book Printing of the Declaration of Independence, and One of the First Printings
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Very rare. According to Sotheby’s, “while there are copies . . . in a number of major libraries and historical societies, only three other copies have appeared at auction since the Streeter sale” of 1967.

[Declaration of Independence]. “In Congress, July 4, 1776. A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled,” pp. 41–46. Printed immediately after The Genuine Principles of the Ancient Saxon, or English Constitution. Carefully collected from the best Authorities; with some Observations, on their Peculiar Fitness, for the United Colonies in General, and Pennsylvania in Particular. By Demophilus. Philadelphia: Printed, and Sold, by Robert Bell, [July 8,] 1776, as dated by the terminal advertisement leaf.

Inventory #26587.99       Price: $450,000

The Declaration was first printed by John Dunlap, the official printer to the Continental Congress, as a broadside on the evening of July 4 into the morning of July 5, 1776. The text next appeared in the July 6 issue of The Pennsylvania Evening Post. The book, Genuine Principles…, must have already been on the press when the broadside appeared, allowing Bell quickly to add a new gathering with the full text of the Declaration preceded by a stirring introduction: “The events which have given birth to this mighty revolution; and will vindicate the provisions that shall be wisely made against our ever again relapsing into a state of bondage and misery, cannot be better set forth than in the following Declaration of American Independence.

The final leaf, dated July 8, advertises Bell’s next publication, “in a few days,” of John Cartwright’s anonymous American Independence the Interest and Glory of Great Britain. On July 8, Dunlap’s own newspaper, The Pennsylvania Packet, or General Advertiser, also printed the Declaration. Advertisements in the July 9 issue of the Pennsylvania Evening Post and the July 10 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette confirm that Genuine Principles was “just printed, published and now selling by Robert Bell.”

In January 1776, Bell had been the first printer of Common Sense. Bell’s “Additions” to Paine’s works a couple of months later included a Demophilus essay, “The Propriety of Independancy.” Demophilus, author of theGenuine Principles… was either George Bryan or Samuel Bryant. In any case, it was intended to influence the delegates to Pennsylvania’s constitutional convention, which began on July 15 with Benjamin Franklin at its head.

In a way, this Declaration imprint is even more “original” than the signed Declaration manuscript. This is the July 4 Declaration, not yet Unanimous. The engrossed manuscript was prepared only after New York’s legislature heard the news and then voted to join the other twelve colonies. The “National Treasure” document was prepared, and most of the signers added their “John Hancocks” on August 4th.

Condition:Title-page loss at upper fore-edge corner cost four letters and a period, by has been professionally restored. First half-sheet (A1–4) creased not affecting legibility, A2 with marginal tear to fore-edge, B2 with repaired tear into last two lines of text. Modern half honey-brown morocco.


Institutions — 16 known copies
Boston Athenaeum; The British Library; Brown University, John Carter Brown Library; University of Chicago, John Crerar Library; Harvard University; Historic Society of Pennsylvania; Huntington Library; Indiana University– Lilly Library; Library Company of Philadelphia; Library of Congress; Massachusetts Historical Society; University of Michigan, William L. Clements Library; Missouri Historical Society; NY Public Library; NY State Library; Yale University.

Private Collections — Possibly 10-15 copies, based on a century of sales records
We find ten to fifteen copies that have sold since 1908, although some of these could be (and probably are) already represented in the institutional list.

References:Evans 14734; Matyas, Checklist of Books, Pamphlets, and Periodicals, Printing the U.S. Declaration of Independence 76-01; Howes B900; Sabin 26964; Streeter 2:778. ESTC W20371; Hildeburn 3372; Revolutionary Hundred 41 note.

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