DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE]. In Congress, July 4, 1776. The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America. When in the Course of human events... Washington: [Imprint at top:] Engraved by W.I. Stone, for the Dept. of State, by Order of J.Q. Adams, Secy. of State. July 4, 1823.
Folio broadside (33½ x 26 3/8 in.), PRINTED ON PAPER, unfolded, pale matburn, lightly browned, extreme edges and corners with small chips, two clean diagonal tears mended, two 1-1½ inch strips at top and bottom darkened. Professionally conserved, lined with mulberry tissue. Matted.
"WHEN IN THE COURSE OF HUMAN EVENTS...": ONE OF THREE RECORDED TRIAL PAPER PROOFS OF THE 1823 ENGRAVED DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
The third recorded example of a paper-printed proof of the finely executed 1823 Stone engraving of the engrossed Declaration of Independence. The first 1823 proof to be identified was one that descended directly in the family of the Mormon leader, Brigham Young (sold Christie's, Los Angeles, 31 January 2002, lot 2, $150,000). Two years later, another was found (Christie's, 14 June 2006, lot 443, $240,000). These three paper printings, on the same wove paper, are now believed to comprise trial proofs struck from the original plate before Stone printed the main edition of 201 copies ordered by Congress for the 50th anniversary of the Declaration. Congress stipulated that the 201 copies comprising that edition, intended for presentation purposes, be printed on large sheets of fine-quality vellum. Laboriously prepared from individual whole skins, vellum was extremely expensive. For that reason, it is likely that when proofing his engraving, Stone would pull proofs on paper rather than on very costly vellum. At a later date, Stone's 1823 imprint, (engraved in very small letters at the top, on either side of the words "In Congress"), was carefully burnished from the plate. Stone's original copperplate--retained by the Department of State--was re-used by Peter Force in 1848 to print copies on thin rice paper for inclusion in his American Archives; these have no imprint at the top, but carry an abbreviated imprint ("J.W.Stone sc. Washington") added in the blank area at lower left.
Stone's meticulously traced and finely engraved facsimile of America's founding manifesto is the most accurate of existing facsimiles and the only one officially authorized by Congress. It reportedly took Stone three years to complete his engraving on a large copperplate. At the time of the only census, in 1991, there were 31 surviving parchment copies, of which 19 were in institutions. The existence of Stone's paper proofs--three of which are now known to survive--is a significant addition to this group of actual-size facsimiles which so carefully reproduce the faded and fragile original document displayed in the National Archives.
See John Bidwell, "Some Broadside Editions of the Declaration of Independence," in Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, vol.98, no 7; W.R. Coleman, "Counting the Stones--A Census of the Stone Facsimiles of the Declaration of Independence," in Manuscripts, vol.43 (1991), no.2, pp.97-105.