An Icon of Liberty
The Force Edition
245. UNITED STATES. DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. In Congress, July 4, 1776. The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America [lower left] W. J. Stone Sc. Washn. [Washington: Peter Force, 1848]. Copper-engraved facsimile broadside on rice paper. Sheet size: Approximately 73 x 65 cm. Condition report: Creased as usual where originally folded into book; a few tears expertly mended (no losses). Removed from book and professionally restored. The broadside was folded and bound between columns 1595/1596 and 1597/1598 in Vol. I of the Fifth Series of Peter Force’s American Archives. With the broadside is a complete set of the Fourth and Fifth Series of:
FORCE, Peter (editor). [Section titles for Fourth and Fifth Series] American Archives: consisting of a Collection of Authentick Records, State Papers, Debates, and Letters and other Notices of Publick Affairs, the Whole forming a Documentary History of the Origin and Progress of the North American Colonies; of the Causes and Accomplishment of the American Revolution; and of the Constitution of Government for the United States, to the Final Ratification thereof. In Six Series.... By Peter Force. Prepared and Published Under Authority of an Act of Congress. [title page, Fourth Series] American Archives: Fourth Series, Containing a Documentary History of the English Colonies in North America, from the King’s Message to the Parliament, of March 7, 1774, to the Declaration of Independence of the United States. Washington: Published by M. St. Clair Clarke and Peter Force, 1837-1846. 6 vols. [title page, Fifth Series] American Archives: Fifth Series, Containing a Documentary History of the United States of America, from the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, to the Definitive Treaty of Peace with Great Britain, September 3, 1783. Washington: Published by M. St. Clair Clarke and Peter Force, 1848-1853. 3 vols. Total: 9 vols., folio (35.5 x 25 cm), all but one vol. original three-quarter sheep over marbled boards with gilt-lettered spines (Vol. I of Fourth Series rebound in modern blue buckram). 3 vols. have tan cloth library tape covering spines; one vol. has spine partially covered in the same material; one vol. missing top of spine and several other pieces. Text blocks edges have small ownership stamps blacked out. Some hinges weak and reinforced with cloth library tape. Title page of Vol. I of Fourth Series moderately stained. Except for the usual foxing and browning, interiors very good. Not collated.
Second edition of the original official signed and engrossed Declaration of Independence, pulled from the copper plate of the original engrossed document by William J. Stone in 1823 (the Stone edition consisted of 201 copies); first edition of Peter Force’s nine-volume series American Archives. Howes F245. Sabin 25053: “Great storehouse of British Colonial and American history.”
As noted, this lot includes a copy of the Declaration of Independence which was issued with the Peter Force series. Force was authorized by Congress to produce a series of publications that reprinted fundamental documents relating to U.S. independence up through the Treaty of Paris. The series, however, ceased after the third volume of the so-called Fifth Series, when financial support from the government dried up. As part of the series, Force was given access to the original copper plate used by William J. Stone to make his celebrated facsimile of the engrossed copy of the original signed Declaration of Independence. It was from this plate that the copy offered here was pulled, although Force slightly altered the imprint information to avoid confusion between his printing and Stone’s original. No certain figure has ever been determined for how many copies Force printed; some conjecture about 500, others suggest perhaps as many as a thousand sets were produced, and still other estimates run as high as 1,500 sets.
Like the first printing of the Declaration of Independence by Dunlap (One Hundred Influential American Books Printed Before 1909 #15; Printing and the Mind of Man 220), the original Stone copper engraving is a legendary rarity. By wetting the original Declaration, Stone was able to transfer some of the ink to a copper plate, which took him about three full years to engrave. In the process of transferring the image, however, he partially effaced the original document, which was subsequently damaged even further by exposure to sunlight while on display in the Patent Office. Thus, his facsimiles and the subsequent Force facsimiles are the only surviving images that reveal what the original Declaration looked like before it was damaged. In 1905, John H. Hazelton, The Declaration of Independence: Its History (New York, 1906) noted: “At the present time, the heavy handwriting of Hancock is scarcely visible; and only a few of the names can be plainly read.” The plate from which the present engraving was made was not used again until 1976, when several copies were pulled for the Bicentennial Celebration. Stone’s 1823 copper plate is housed at the National Archives, and the plate is not scheduled to be used again until 2076.
“Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is at once the nation’s most cherished symbol of liberty and Jefferson’s most enduring monument. Here, in exalted and unforgettable phrases, Jefferson expressed the convictions in the minds and hearts of the American people. The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new; its ideals of individual liberty had already been expressed by John Locke and the Continental philosophers. What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy in ‘self-evident truths’ and set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country.”-National Archives “Charters of Freedom” On-line Exhibit <http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/declaration.html>
Exploring the roots of the Texas Declaration of Independence will always lead back to the United States Declaration of Independence. “The Texas edict, like the United States Declaration of Independence, contains a statement on the nature of government, a list of grievances, and a final declaration of independence” (Handbook of Texas Online: “Texas Declaration of Independence”). “Nothing can be more natural than this promptness with which the minds of the Anglo-American colonists reverted to their mother-country when friction began with the Mexican authorities. Often throughout the whole colonization period there was clearly discernible among the Texan pioneers a longing for the laws and institutions they had left" (Ethel Zivley Ratiler, “Recognition of the Republic Of Texas by the United States,” SWHQ 13:3, pp. 155-256).
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Copyright Dorothy Sloan 2007