U.S. History/Declaration of Independence Copy
A journalist, I am currently interviewing a man who claims to own the only direct copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence still in existence. (This is not a Dunlap Copy.)
He claims that there is no one textbook to document what he is claiming, but that he has pieced together all of the segments in a puzzle, which look like this:
1) A Declaration of Independence which he bought is the same size, layout, font, etc. as the original.
2) That there is proof that a printing press was sent over from England in 1846 to make direct copies of the Declaration (for the ruling classes) - like a scanner today.
3) That process, because of the intensity and that it was designed for paper, damaged the original copy, which was printed on animal skin.
4) Only a handful were produced before the process as stopped - one, the owner believes, is in Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
If you could let me know your thoughts on this - whether there is something that points to this being true; what the flaws are - that would be greatly appreciated.
There are a wide range of Declarations of varying value. The original embossed version that is in the US Archives today was actually drafted several weeks later, after being ordered by Congress on July 19, 1776. Members of Congress signed the document over the next few months, most of them doing so in August.
The original document passed by Congress on July 4th is, as far as I know, lost to history. That is the copy that was signed only by John Hancock and the Sec. of Congress Charles Thompson. That copy was delivered to Dunlap who simply created a printer plate like was used for newspapers or pamphlets and printed about 200 copies, about 26 of which are known today.
Several other printers also printed copies over the next few weeks, all of which are valuable, although not as much as a Dunlap copy. But none of these copies is an exact photographic representation of the embossed Declaration.
One of the first copies that looked identical to the original embossed copy was an 1823 version that was made by William Stone. The Stone copies were originally thought to have been made through a chemical copy of the original. However, many experts believe the Stone copies were actually just very accurate reproductions of the original made by hand.
There is a story that in 1846 a printer made copies of the original using a process called anastatic facsimile which may have damaged the original. As far as I know, this was not a British printer but a local printer named Robert Smith who had a shop on Chestnut St. in Philadelphia. Robert Smith was the son of the Librarian of Congress at the time. There is an anastatic copy of the Declaration in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. However, many experts believe that the anastatic copy or copies (there is no indication how many may have been made) were actually copies of one of the Stone copies, not the original.
I have seen a few articles of a second one owned by a collector named Thomas Lingenfelter. Perhaps that is the man you have interviewed. However, his is not the only copy in private hands. Christie's Auction also sold a document in 2009 purporting to be an 1846 anastatic copy. The sales price was $25,000.
I hope this helps!