[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.I. Stone, for the Dept. of State, by order of J.Q. Adams, Secty. of State. July 4 1823.
Folio broadside (30 3/8 x 24 3/8 in). ENGRAVING, PRINTED ON FINE PARCHMENT. (Some areas with light age-toning, a very few marginal defects, these professionally conserved.)
"WHEN IN THE COURSE OF HUMAN EVENTS...": THE OFFICIAL 1823 ENGRAVING OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
Stone's meticulously prepared, actual-size, engraved facsimile of America's founding document remains the most accurate of all existing facsimiles and the only one officially authorized by Congress. In 1820, forty-four years after the Declaration of Independence was adopted by Congress and signed in Philadelphia by 56 delegates to the Continental Congress, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams (himself the son of a Signer), commissioned William J. Stone to execute a full-scale facsimile of the historic document, the original of which had already suffered fading and wear during its vicissitudes since 1776. The engraving of the very large copperplate, it is reported, took Stone a full three years. Some have contended that a transfer process he used caused "some physical harm to the parchment" of the original (National Archives, Declaration of Independence: The Adventures of A Document, 1976, p.17).
On January 2, 1823, Adams formally notified the Senate that 200 copies had been printed, all on large sheets of parchment similar to that used in the engrossed original. Congress, in a resolution of 26 May, directed that these be distributed to honor the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The President (James Monroe) and Vice-President were each to receive two copies, two more were allocated to former President James Madison, twenty copies to the two houses of Congress, two copies to each surviving Signer (Jefferson, John Adams and Charles Carroll), and two copies to the Marquis de Lafayette, who was shortly to visit the country whose independence he had helped to secure (one of Lafayette's copies was sold at Christie's, 22 November 1985, lot 194). Congress presented additional copies to colleges and libraries, and few remain today in private hands. A 1991 census counted 31 examples of which 19 were in institutions and twelve privately owned. J. Bidwell, "American History in Image and Text," in Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, vol.98, part 2 (October 1988), no.7; W.R. Coleman, "Counting the Stones--A Census of the Stone Facsimiles of the Declaration of Independence," in Manuscripts, vol.43, no.2, pp.97-105.