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Constitution and Bill of Rights

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Bill of Rights: First House of Representatives Draft, Rare July 31, 1789 Newspaper Printing

[BILL OF RIGHTS], The Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser, July 31, 1789 (No. 3276). Philadelphia: John Dunlap and David C. Claypoole. 4 pp., 11 x 18¼ in.

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On June 8, 1789, Congressman James Madison introduced his summary of proposed amendments to the Constitution. On July 21, John Vining of Delaware was appointed to chair a Committee of 11, with one member representing each state, as Rhode Island and North Carolina had yet to ratify the Constitution, to consider the subject.  This is the Report of Mr. Vining and the Committee “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. The twenty words this report proposed to be added before the introductory phrase “We the people,” were not accepted by Congress. Revisions were made by both the House and the Senate, but within two months, this draft was edited down to twelve proposed amendments that Congress submitted to the states for ratification.

Item #26013, $12,000

U.S. Constitution – Contemporary List of States with Ratification Dates and Votes

[CONSTITUTION], Manuscript Document, ca. July 1788-1790. List of the first thirteen states and dates of ratification with votes. 1 p., 4 x 7 in.

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Item #24876, $3,500

The Declaration of Independence – Printed in 1776 London - Where the Press Feared to Call a Tyrant a Tyrant

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, Pamphlet. Gentleman’s Magazine. London, England, August 1776. Octavo. Lacking a plate. Disbound; minimal wear, some pages loose but intact, some foxing or toning, otherwise fine.

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“A ____, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a T____, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people”

For years, American protests were directed at the actions of Parliament, and royal ministers. That changed with the Declaration of Independence, a substantial part of which is framed as a bill of particular offenses against American freedoms personally committed by the King.

The British press could use the words “King,” “Prince,” and “Tyrant,” but many British publishers felt it prudent to avoid printing those words together. Other British printings were even more self-censored, while this printed all the juicy parts.

Item #24195.15, SOLD — please inquire about other items

One of the Earliest Announcements of Independence

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, The Pennsylvania Magazine; Or American Monthly Museum for January-July, 1776. Philadelphia: Robert Aitken. [5]-344pp.

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A bound volume containing a remarkable issue—one of the most historic magazines ever printed.

July 2.  This day the Hon. Continental Congress declared the UNITED COLONIES FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES.

Item #21422.99, $42,000

The New U.S. Senate Considers Bill to Organize the Federal Judiciary: Full Text of the Senate Bill to Establish the Supreme Court, Federal Judicial Districts and Circuit Courts, as Well as the Position of Attorney General

JUDICIARY ACT, U.S. SENATE DRAFT, The Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser. Newspaper, June 29, 1789 (No. 3248). Philadelphia: John Dunlap and David C. Claypoole. 4 pp., 11⅜ x 18¼ in.

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the supreme court of the United States shall consist of a chief justice and five associate justices...and shall hold annually at the seat of the federal government two sessions....

The U.S. Constitution provided that the “judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and such inferior Courts,” leaving to Congress to establish the details. The Judiciary Act erected a three-tiered federal court system—the Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeals, and the District Courts—essentially the system in place today. The foremost issue was the relative power and authority to be respectively accorded the federal and state courts. The Judiciary Act’s most controversial provision empowered the Supreme Court to hear, at its discretion, appeals of verdicts reached in the state courts whenever those decisions were deemed to raise questions of constitutionality of state or federal laws. 

Item #24830, $1,650

Debating the Bill of Rights Amendments in 1789

[BILL OF RIGHTS], The Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser. Newspaper, August 22, 1789 (No. 3295). Philadelphia: John Dunlap and David C. Claypoole. 4 pp., 11⅜ x 18¼ in.

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Mr. [Egbert] Benson [of New York] moved that the words ‘but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms,’ be struck out. He wished that this humane provision should be left to the wisdom and benevolence of government. It was improper to make it a fundamental in the constitution.”

This issue of the Pennsylvania Packet includes key debates in the House of Representatives on the developing set of amendments that were later ratified as the Bill of Rights. It also prints the Act establishing the War Department.

Item #24831, $7,500

The United States Constitution – Very Rare October 1, 1787 Connecticut Printing In Bound Volumes of The American Mercury, 1785-1788

[CONSTITUTION], Newspaper. The American Mercury, Two Bound Volumes, published in Hartford, Connecticut, each 10 x 16 in., in original quarter sheepskin and paper boards. Covers inscribed with name of owner*, Charles D’W. Brownell of Bristol, Rhode Island. Vol. IV, No. 169. The first volume contains 99 issues from February 7, 1785 to December 25, 1786, missing seven. The second volume runs from January 1, 1787 to December 29, 1788, likewise missing seven.

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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 of the United States of America.”

Item #26054, SOLD — please inquire about other items

The United States Constitution – Early Connecticut Printing

[CONSTITUTION], Newspaper. The New-Haven Gazette, and The Connecticut Magazine. September 27, 1787. M.DCC.LXXXVII (No 32.) Printed and Published by Josiah Meigs. Signed in type by George Washington and the other 38 delegates who signed the Constitution. 8 pp. Quarto (8.625 x 10.125 inches). ([249]-256, though what should be page 255 is mis-numbered 247, as is the case with the other copies we have seen of this edition). Accompanied by title and index leaves printed slightly later, for binding after end of year.

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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 of the United States of America.”

Item #26098, $20,000

A Stone/Force Printing of the Declaration of Independence

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. Approx 26 x 29 in.

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IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.

Item #25743, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Bill of Rights: Early N.Y. Printing of First Draft Approved by the House of Representatives - 17 Proposed Constitutional Amendments

[BILL OF RIGHTS], Newspaper. Gazette of the United States, August 29, 1789. New York: John Fenno. Includes a complete printing of the first House of Representatives proposal for amending the Constitution on page 2. 4 pp., 10 x 15¾ in.

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Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of conscience be infringed.

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 a redress of grievances, shall not be infringed.

A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed....

After months of work, on August 24, 1789, the House of Representatives approved seventeen Constitutional amendments, including the first to use the exact phrase, “freedom of speech.” This newspaper includes the full text of the resolution sent by the House to the Senate for approval. The Senate began deliberating the next day, approving some articles and rejecting or altering others.

Item #25430, $12,000

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.

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Item #25046, $6,000

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.

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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.

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Item #23834.99, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Rare French Facsimile of the Declaration of Independence

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, Copperplate engraving, “In Congress, July 4, 1776, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America…” Paris: Kaeppelin & Cie, 15 Quai Voltaire; engraved by F. Lepelle. [1840.] 25 x 32 in. Framed 30¾ x 38 in. 1p.

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Scarce French reproduction based on William J. Stone’s official copperplate facsimile done by order of Congress. This French edition was produced for an 1840 adaptation of Jared Sparks’s Life and Writings of Washington, appearing as plate 22 in the atlas accompanying the multi-volume work.

Item #20627.99, $20,000

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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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

Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Tyler 1818 - First Print with Facsimile Signatures

BENJAMIN OWEN TYLER, Broadside, Drawn by Tyler and engraved by Peter Maverick, [Washington, D.C., 1818]. 1 p., 23⅞ x 31 in., archivally framed to approx. 32 x 40 in.

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“In Congress, July 4th 1776. The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.”

Item #23683, $29,000

The Declaration of Independence, Printed in 1776 Journals of Congress - Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson’s Chief Clerk’s Copy (SOLD)

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE], Book. Journals of Congress. Containing the Proceedings from January 1, 1776, to January 1, 1777. Volume II. York-Town [Penn.]: John Dunlap, 1778. Second issue (i.e. Dunlap’s imprint but incorporating Aitken’s sheets). 520 pp., 8 x 4 ¾ in. Title page with New York City Bar Association stamp, discreet accession number on verso. Lacking the index (xxvii pp.).

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This rare volume of the Journals of Congress, covering the pivotal year of 1776, has an unusual printing history. The first 424 pages were printed in Philadelphia in 1777 by Robert Aitken. The project was interrupted when the British marched into Philadelphia on September 26, 1777. Congress fled, and after a day in Lancaster established itself in York, Pennsylvania. Aitken escaped with some of his finished sheets but had to abandon his press. On the other hand, John Dunlap, the original printer of the Declaration of Independence, managed to remove his press. In May 1778, Congress hired Dunlap to complete the reprint of their 1776 journals.

This copy bears the signature of Henry Remsen Jr., (1762-1843), the Chief Clerk of the State Department when Jefferson was Secretary of State. At that time, the Patent Office was part of the State Department, so among his accomplishments Remsen recorded the first rules for the examination of patents, a subject dear to Jefferson the inventor. Remsen later became a noteworthy New York financier.

Item #23757, 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.

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“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
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