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Declaration of Independence
Declaration of Independence

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July 8, 1776 – The First Book Printing of the Declaration of Independence, and One of the First Printings

[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.

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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.

Item #26587.99, $450,000

General Washington Orders Declaration of Independence Read to Army in New York

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE], Manuscript Orderly Book. Headquarters [New York City], [July 8, 1776 – August 21, 1776]. Containing two overlapping sequences in different hands: one 145-page sequence runs from July [9], 1776 to August 21, 1776, and another 13-page segment (written from the other end of the book) runs from July 8-13, 1776. 158 pp. 7½ x 6 in. Both versions vary slightly from the published text of Washington’s General Orders of July 9. This volume, with Brigade and Regimental orders, was either kept by battalion adjutant Aaron Comstock or an orderly sergeant in one of Gold S. Silliman’s eight companies enlisted in Connecticut shortly before. This is likely the battalion’s first orderly book after arriving in New York with approximately 415 men.

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the Honble Continental Congress … haveing been plead to Desolve Connection Between this country & great Britain & to declare the united Colonys of North America free & Independent States the Several Brigades are to be Drawn us [up] this Evening on their Respective Parades at 6 oclock when the Deleration of Congress Shewing the grounds & Reasons of the Measures to be Read with Laudable [audible] Voice the genl [George Washington] Hopes that this important Point will serve as a fresh incentive to Every officer and soldier to act with fidelity & courage as knowing that now the Peace and Safety of this country Depends under god solely on the success of our arms....” (July 9, 1776)

the gel being informed to his great surprize that a Report prevails & Industrously spread far and wide that Lord how [British General Lord William Howe] has made <145> Propositions of Peace Calculated by disguiseing Persons most Probably To Lull us into a fatal Security his Duty obliges him to Declare that No such offer has been made by Lord how but on the Contrarary from the Best inteligence he can Procure the army may Expect atack as soon as the wind and tide proves favorable He hopes theirfore every mans mind & arms may be Prepared for action and when caled to it shew our enemies & the whole world that free men Contendin for their own Land are Superior to any Mercenaries on Earth.... (August 20, 1776)

Remarkable manuscript book containing two separate versions of Washington’s General Orders of July 9, 1776, announcing to the Continental Army in New York that Congress had formally declared the 13 colonies to be independent of Great Britain. Of course, Washington’s name is notably absent on the Declaration of Independence, as he was in New York preparing to face the music of the inevitable British invasion.

Item #21461.99, $115,000

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, $48,000

Rare Important Declaration of Independence Linen Handkerchief

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, Printed Cotton Handkerchief, ca. 1821. 31 x 33 in.

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The intricate design of this handkerchief features images of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, beneath an eagle and flags. In the center appears the text of the Declaration of Independence, together with facsimiles of the signatures. An oak wreath with acorns surrounds the text and features images of the seals of the thirteen original states. An image at lower left depicts the Boston Tea Party with the caption, “The Patriotic Bostonians discharging the British Ships in Boston harbour.” An image at lower right depicts “General Burgoyne’s Surrender to General Gates at Saratoga.” Around the edge runs a stars and rope border with anchors at each corner and at the center of each side. The design was printed with red ink using a copper plate.

The design draws much from prints of the Declaration of Independence by William Woodruff, published in February 1819, and John Binns, published in October 1819.

Item #26474, $38,000

Continental Congress Declares Independence – on July 2, 1776

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE], Pennsylvania Magazine: or American Monthly Museum. Philadelphia, Pa., R. Aitken, June 1776 [published ca. July 4.] 48 pp., 5¼ x 8¼ in., without fold out map.

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Due to a shortage of paper,The Pennsylvania Magazine: or American Monthly Museum, edited by Thomas Paine, held the June issue past its normal publication date (which would have been July 3rd), allowing time for the last-minute insertion of the actual resolution of Congress declaring independence. The Pennsylvania Evening Post is the only other contemporary publication of the resolution we have found, in their July 2 issue.

Item #26797.99, $35,000

Hamilton LS on Declaration-Signer Philip Livingston's Estate, Ten Years After His Death

ALEXANDER HAMILTON, Autograph Letter Signed, to [William Livingston], December 15, 1788, New York, New York. 3 pp., 6¼ x 7¾ in. Together with an engraving of Hamilton, 6 x 8½ in.

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Item #27212, $11,000

British Literary Magazine Early Printing of the Declaration of Independence

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE], The Westminster Magazine; or, The Pantheon of Taste, August 1776. London: Thomas Wright, [1776]. Folding engraved map; lacking an engraved view and a piece of music, 52 pp. (395-448), 5⅛ x 8 in.

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We hold these Truths to be self-evident; that all Men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

The Westminster Magazinewas one of several London periodicals to include the Declaration in their August issue; the full text appears on pages 431-32, without comment.

Item #26146, $3,000

Robert Morris Promissory Note,
Used As Evidence In His Bankruptcy Trial

ROBERT MORRIS, Autograph Document Signed, December 12, 1794. 1 p., 7⅛ x 3¾ in.

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Financier of the Revolution forced into bankruptcy court: “Sixty days after date, I promise to pay unto Mr. Mathias Kurlin Junr or Order Thirteen Hundred & forty six Dolls & Sixty Seven Cents for value recd.”

Item #20892, $2,800

Declaration Signer George Ross Gets Promissory Note for First Treason Trial in Pennsylvania

GEORGE ROSS, Document Signed in text in Docketing. Promissory note of Joseph Malin to George Ross, September 16, 1778. 2 pp.

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Item #24194.02, $1,250

July 4, 1810 Oration by Democratic-Republican Declaration Printer John Binns

JOHN BINNS, Printed Pamphlet. An Oration Commemorative of the Birth-Day of American Independence, Delivered Before the Democratic Societies of the City and County of Philadelphia, On the 4th of July, 1810. Philadelphia, PA: C. and A. Conrad & Co., 1810. 11 pp., 5¾ x 9 in. in original blue wrappers.

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our rights have been sported with—our property seized—our laws mocked at—our citizens imprisoned, impressed and murdered—our national flag has been bathed in our own waters made red with the blood of our citizens…

Speech by Democratic-Republican stalwart John Binns praising the heroes of the Founding Era and encouraging support for James Madison’s administration against the insults of European belligerents. The nationalism to which he appeals erupted two years later in a declaration of war against the United Kingdom and the beginning of the War of 1812.

Item #25491, $490

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, Washington, D.C. ca. 1833]. Printed for Peter Force’s American Archives, Series V, Vol I. Approx. 24¾ x 29½ in., framed to 32½ x 37½ in.

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The Stone/Force printings are the best representation of the Declaration as it was when members of the Continental Congress put their lives on the line to sign it in August of 1776. 

Item #27694, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Declaration-Signer Stephen Hopkins and Former Rival Samuel Ward, Both Representatives of Rhode Island in the Continental Congress, Sign a Joint Letter Twice

STEPHEN HOPKINS and SAMUEL WARD, Fragment of Letter Signed twice by each, to [Rhode Island Governor Nicholas Cooke?], n.d. (ca. October 1775-March 1776), n.p. 2 pp., 7.75 x 12.75 in.

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“Mr. [Henry?]Wards Sentiments & Conduct relative to the Slave Trade are so universally known that it is unnecessary to say anything on that head…. We have therefore no Time to loose but ought to improve every moment in making all possible Preparations for the Defence of the Colonies in general”

This letter from Rhode Island’s delegates to the Second Continental Congress may have been directed to Acting Governor or Governor Nicholas Cooke in late 1775 or early 1776. It discusses the needs of the colonies to defend themselves against British incursions and criticizes a Rhode Islander who refused to support the Revolution.

The shakiness of Hopkins’s signatures is apparent. When he signed the Declaration of Independence, Hopkins said, “My hand trembles, but my heart does not.”

Item #27380.01, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Delivering Dunlap Declaration of Independence Broadsides in July 1776

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE], Owen Biddle. Manuscript Document Signed as member of the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety, July 10, 1776, Philadelphia. Ordering John Nixon of the Committee of Accounts to pay Michael Kuhn “£11..12..6” for his couriers to deliver copies of the Declaration of Independence (Dunlap broadsides) to Chester, Lancaster and Bucks counties, and Potts Grove (in Northumberland County). Docketed on verso. 1 p., 8¼ x 5⅛ in.

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A unique document related to the distribution by courier of Dunlap Declaration of Independence broadsides. John Nixon, to whom this document is directed for payment, was the first person to read the Declaration publicly, on Monday, July 8, before a large crowd in Philadelphia at the State House Yard. He went on to become one of the founders of the Bank of North America, established in 1783.

The Dunlap Declaration that I bought and sold for a couple of million dollars in 1995 is now worth $40 million or more. What will this Pay Order be worth to the buyer of the next one?

Item #27470, SOLD — please inquire about other items

John Binns’ Scarce & Most Decorative Early Declaration of Independence Facsimile (1819)

[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 designed and engraved by Charles H. Parker, facsimiles of signatures engraved by John Vallance of the firm of Tanner, Vallance, Kearny & Co. Ornamental border, drawn by George Bridport, incorporated the seals of the thirteen original states after Thomas Sully, engraved by George Murray. Medallion portraits of Washington (after Gilbert Stuart, 1795), Jefferson (after Bass Otis, 1816), and Hancock (after John Singleton Copley, 1765), were engraved by James Barton Longacre. Printed by James Porter. 27½ x 36 in.

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Historical Background
In 1816, the publisher John Binns was the first to announce plans to publish a decorative broadside of the Declaration of Independence, to be sold by subscription for $10 each. The project was completed in 1819, by which time four others had already imitated the idea and issued less ornate and less expensive copies, including a pirated copy of the Binns. Binns later said that his publication cost him $9,000, an astonishing amount at that time.

In a prospectus accompanying an incomplete state of the print submitted for copyright on November 4, 1818, Binns describes the work: “The Design in imitation of Bas Relief, will encircle the Declaration as a cordon of honor, surmounted by the Arms of the United States. Immediately underneath the arms, will be a large medallion portrait of General George Washington, supported by cornucopias, and embellished with spears, flags, and other Military trophies and emblems. On the one side of this medallion portrait, will be a similar portrait of John Hancock,...and on the other, a portrait of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence. The arms of ‘The Thirteen United States’ in medallion, united by wreaths of olive leaves, will form the remainder of the cordon, which will be further enriched by some of the characteristic productions of the United States; such as the Tobacco and Indigo plants, the Cotton Shrub, Rice &c. The facsimiles will be engraved by Mr. Vallance, who will execute the important part of the publication at the City of Washington, where, by permission of the Secretary of State, he will have the original signatures constantly under his eye.”

The Binns broadside bears an engraved facsimile attestation to the accuracy of the document by John Quincy Adams, then Secretary of State, from April 19, 1819: “I certify, that this is a Correct copy of the original Declaration of Independence, deposited at this Department; and that I have compared all the signatures with those of the original, and have found them Exact Imitations.

Despite the competition, Binns’ print remains the best decorative reproduction of the Declaration of Independence. Binns wanted to have his copy adopted as official, and one was displayed in the House of Representatives. For political reasons—and perhaps because Binns failed to include an engraving of John Adams—John Quincy Adams soon after commissioned William J. Stone to make an exact facsimile in 1823.

The Library Company of Philadelphia owns the original copper printing plate for this print.

Item #27257, SOLD — please inquire about other items

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, Washington, D.C. ca. 1833]. Printed for Peter Force’s American Archives, Series V, Vol I. Approx. 25 x 30 in.

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The Stone/Force printings are the best representation of the Declaration as it was when members of the Continental Congress put their lives on the line to sign it in August of 1776. 

Item #26740.99, SOLD — please inquire about other items

June 1776 Charles Thomson Signed Continental Congress Resolution Defining Treason

CHARLES THOMSON, Manuscript Document Signed, Copy of Resolution Extracted from Minutes Journal as Secretary of Confederation Congress, June 24, 1776, Philadelphia. 2 pp., 6⅜ x 8 in.

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This resolution of the Second Continental Congress, approved days before it adopted the Declaration of Independence, defines a person as guilty of treason if they “levy war” against any of the united American colonies or give “aid and comfort” to any of their enemies. This resolution was the first public act to declare King George III the enemy and was a de facto declaration of independence.

Item #27107, SOLD — please inquire about other items

A Remarkable Find After 177 Years: A Long-Lost Official William J. Stone Copy of the Declaration of Independence, Presented in 1824 to Signer Charles Carroll of Carrollton (SOLD)

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, “In Congress, July 4, 1776. The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America. … ENGRAVED by W.I. STONE, for the Dept. of State by order/of J.Q. ADAMS Sect. of State, July 4th 1823.” [Washington, D.C.] Copperplate engraving on vellum.

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The Carroll copy shown here sold for a record $4,420,000 at Freeman’s on July 1, 2021.

I was thrilled to be called on to help authenticate and sell this rare printing of the Declaration. When I saw my first one in 1991, 31 Stone Declarations were known. Through discoveries in museums, behind a cabinet in the Supreme Court, by a descendent of James Madison, in a thrift store in Tennessee, and now by a family in Scotland who were having books appraised by a Scottish auction house, the number stands at 48. In various ways, I’ve had the honor to have been involved with 15—now 16—Stone Declaration sales. 

Item #26440, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Declaration Signer’s Copy of the Declaration of Independence (SOLD)

[CONTINENTAL CONGRESS]. ROGER SHERMAN, Signed Book. Journals of Congress. Containing the Proceedings in the Year, 1776. Published by Order of Congress. Volume II. Philadelphia. Robert Aitken, 1777. First edition. Rebound. [2], 513, [26, Index] pages. The Declaration is printed on pages 241-246.

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Roger Sherman’s copy of the 1776 Journals of Congress, including the Declaration of Independence, signed on the title page. This is the second printing of the Declaration to list the names of the signers (after the Goddard broadside) and the third official printing overall (after the Dunlap and Goddard broadsides).

Item #26426, SOLD — please inquire about other items

The Declaration of Independence, Rare Broadside Printed and Posted in July, 1776 (SOLD)

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE], Broadside. [attributed to Robert Luist Fowle, Exeter, New Hampshire], [ca. July 15-19, 1776], two-column format, sheet size approx. 151/8 x 195/8 in. Pin holes in three corners, with the upper-left corner torn in approximately the same position, indicates that this was posted publicly to spread the momentous news.

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Broadsides such as this fanned the flames of independence. Passed from hand to hand, read aloud at town gatherings, or posted in public places, broadsides (single pages printed only on one side) were meant to quickly convey news. Including the present copy, there are fewer than a dozen examples of this Exeter, N.H. printing known. Pin holes in three corners and the torn upper-left corner suggest this example was posted publicly.

In a way, this Declaration broadside is even more “original” than the signed manuscript pictured by most Americans. This is not yet “The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States,” but rather “A Declaration, by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled.” On July 4, New York’s delegation abstained from voting for independence. After replacing their delegates, New York joined the other 12 colonies.

Moreover, as here on the broadside, the July 4 Declaration was signed by only two men: Continental Congress President John Hancock and Secretary Charles Thomson (here with the common variant “Thompson”). After New York on board, Congress resolved on July 19 to have the Declaration engrossed with a new title: “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.” Most of the 56 signers affixed their names on the engrossed document on August 2, 1776, with some added even later.

Thus, broadsides such as this one preserve the text of the Declaration of Independence as it actually was issued in July of 1776.

Item #21991, SOLD — please inquire about other items

A Stone/Force Printing of the Declaration of Independence (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. Approx. 25 x 30 in.

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

Item #26238, SOLD — please inquire about other items
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