DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE – In Congress, July 4, 1776. The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America. [Washington:] W. I. Stone for the Department of State, 4 July 1823.
Broadside, folio (818 x 676mm), PRINTED ON FINE PARCHMENT (folds, tack holes at extreme corners, small marginal tear at bottom left margin well clear of text).
"Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness"
A previously unrecorded edition of the Official 1823 Stone Printing of the Declaration of Independence with French provenance and in remarkable condition. 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 2 January 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). Congress presented additional copies to colleges and libraries, and few remain today in private hands.
In addition to the aforementioned copies, two were given 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 here (Christie's, 22 November 1985, lot 194), but the whereabouts of the second copy remain unknown. The present copy was discovered in an outdoor market in France in the 1970s. The last copy on vellum to appear at auction was in these rooms in 2012 (Christie's, New York, 7 December 2012, lot 34, $782,500).