Rare Declaration of Independence for Sale in NYC

PA Post_July 6 1776_p1-#25B.jpgLast week Seth Kaller announced the forthcoming sale of the first newspaper printing of the Declaration of Independence, to be held on June 25 at Manhattan’s Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries. This rare document is expected to fetch $500,000-700,000.

A closer look at the auction catalogue created for this sale reveals intriguing details. Publication of the Declaration in the Pennsylvania Evening Post on July 6, 1776 was preceded only by the official broadside, printed by John Dunlap. Kaller’s staff discovered a series of typesetting differences between Dunlap’s broadside and Benjamin Towne’s newspaper edition, “particularly in the use of capitalization, too numerous to be coincidental,” according to the catalogue. When compared against two working drafts of the Declaration--one in Thomas Jefferson’s hand, the other a copy made by John Adams--they noticed a pattern. It seems Jefferson had a habit of lower-casing words, while Adams frequently capitalized for effect, e.g. “When, in the course of human events,” versus “When in the Course of human Events....” What’s more, Dunlap’s broadside conforms to Adams’ style, while Towne’s newspaper edition follows Jefferson’s style. Minor variations to some, but meaningful in studying the dissemination of one of America’s founding documents.

“The most intriguing upshot of showing that the Post follows Thomas Jefferson’s style, while the Dunlap follows John Adams’ style, is that this may mean that there were two different July 4, 1776 original manuscripts of the Declaration,” says Kaller.

This new research will certainly add to the lore (and lure) of this rarity. Only four copies have been recorded on the market in the last fifty years; this one was last seen at Sotheby’s in 1993. According to Kaller’s census, only nineteen copies of the July 6 Pennsylvania Evening Post are extant, and of those, only two or three are in private hands.

Image courtesy of Seth Kaller.
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