Did you know…
The Declaration of Independence, the very first and perhaps most important historical document, was intended to be printed and then thrown away, much like one would a newspaper or sale flyer. That’s why copies of the document are so rare.
The Declaration was printed first and foremost as a means of disseminating the news that America had declared its independence from England. The first copies were printed by John Dunlap, a printer in Philadelphia.
As copies rolled off the press, they were quickly taken to riders on horseback ready to courier the news to small towns throughout the colonies, where, in turn, local printers would print additional copies, continuing to spread word throughout the countryside.
The fifty-six signers of the Declaration risked their lives in doing so – this was an act of sedition, considered high treason against the King of England, punishable by death. It was equally dangerous to be a printer involved in printing copies of it. That’s partly the reason why many copies of the document bear no printer’s mark.
The original handwritten Declaration, most likely penned by Thomas Jefferson’s own hand, was likely thrown away, though a partial draft version remains in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
As a self-proclaimed history nut, I’m tremendously excited that Skinner will soon stake its own place in American history on November 14th, when we auction a recently rediscovered Declaration broadside in our Fine Books & Manuscripts auction. This copy descended in the family of a New Hampshire Judge who presided over the court in 1776, and due to his prominent position, was likely given the responsibility of disseminating the news in his town.
Skinner last sold a broadside printing of the Declaration of Independence in November 2007, for $693,500, the second highest price ever achieved for a non-Dunlap copy of the document. I hope we can repeat history this November.