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, D.C.] engraved by W.J. Stone (1823-1825), reprinted 1833 from the original copperplate, for Peter Force's American Archives (1837-1853), [Traditionally mis-dated 1848, see below].
Folio broadside (29 3/8 x 25 3/8 in.). Folded. Even age-toning, slight offsetting as is often the case. 10 small rust spots, small puncture to upper left margin, old creases, but a very good copy.
A FINE COPY OF PETER FORCE'S 1833 PRINTING OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, FROM W.J. STONE'S 1823 PLATE. In 1823, with the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence approaching, Congress commissioned Stone to produce a high-quality, actual-size replica of the original engrossed Declaration. The signatures of the 56 delegates were to be carefully copied. Stone spent two years perfecting the plate and after he had printed the 200 copies ordered, his original engraved plate remained with the Department of State.
A decade later, Peter Force (1790-1868), historian, publisher and mayor of Washington D.C., conceived a massive 20-volume anthology entitled American Archives, containing copies of key letters, documents and broadsides from the Revolutionary War. Congress agreed to fund an edition of 1,500 sets. For the project, Force arranged with the State Department to print 4,000 copies of the Declaration, from Stone's original copperplate, on fine, wove paper. Stone's imprint was neatly burnished out at the top of the plate--and a discreet "W.J. STONE SC[ULPSIT] WASHN." added in the lower left quadrant.
Documentation recently unearthed shows that the Force edition was not printed in 1848 as previously believed, but earlier, in 1833. American Archives was published at intervals between 1837 and 1853, but paid subscriptions to the elaborate (and bulky) collection proved disappointing, and only 9 of the projected 20 volumes were issued. Of the 4,000 engraved Declarations, 1,500 went to the State Department, some 2,000 were evidently folded for binding, and a surplus of perhaps 500 remained unfolded. A surplus is likely to have been summarily destroyed.