[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE]. TYLER, Benjamin Owen, publisher, Peter MAVERICK, engraver. In Congress, July 4th 1776. The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America. When in the course of human events...with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor, Washington D.C., Benjamin Owen Tyler, 1818.
Large folio (29½ x 26 3/16 in.). PRINTED ON FINE PARCHMENT. Finely engraved calligraphic text, the first few lines decorated with ornamental penwork flourishes and ornate capitals, key words of the text of the Declaration rendered in a variety of large shaded, gothic or cross-hatched capitals; at bottom right is the small legend "Engraved by Peter Maverick, Newark, N.J; imprint beneath engraved signatures of the Signers at bottom: "Copied from the original Declaration of Independence in the Department of State and Published by Benjamin Owen Tyler, Professor of Penmanship, City of Washington, 1818." Mounted at an early date as a scroll, with turned wooden spindle at bottom, neatly backed with linen, minor superficial soiling and spotting, otherwise in very good condition.
A RARE PARCHMENT COPY OF TYLER'S CAREFUL 1818 FACIMILE OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, DEDICATED TO THOMAS JEFFERSON
The publication of an expensive engraved reproduction of Jonathan Trumbull's famous painting "The Declaration of Independence" coincided with publication of two competing engraved facsimiles of the Declaration of Independence itself, one by John Binns (embellished with portraits of principal patriots), the other by Massachusetts engraver and entrepreneur Benjamin Owen Tyler. The simultaneous appearance of the three engravings reflects the American public's heightened reverence for the nation's fundamental charter as it approached its 50-year anniversary, marking a time when "Americans discovered the noble sentiments in the Declaration," and began to view it "not as a mere instrument of diplomacy but as the birthright of a nation, as a manifesto of human dignity and personal rights" (Bidwell).
Engraved in delicate cursive at the top left is Tyler's dedication: "To Thomas Jefferson, Patron of the Arts, the firm Supporter of American Independence, and the Rights of Man, this Charter of Freedom is, with the highest esteem, most Respectfully Inscribed by his much Obliged and very Humble Servant Benjamin Owen Tyler." In the bottom left corner is an engraved testimonial note signed by Richard Rush, Secretary of State, certifying the accuracy of the text and the original signatures: "I myself have examined the signatures...Those executed by Mr. Tyler are curiously exact imitations, so much so that it would be difficult if not impossible for the closest scrutiny to distinguish them." Tyler adds a note in small characters in the bottom margin: "The publisher designed and executed the ornamental writing... and has also observed the same punctuation, and copied every Capital as in the original." Copies of the Tyler facsimile on paper were sold for five dollars, while copies on parchment cost seven dollars (a very few copies, evidently, were also printed on silk). Tyler brashly claimed to have received orders for 3,000 copies but it is doubtful that his copperplate could have produced so many impressions and Tyler's original subscription book (in the Albert Small Collection at the University of Virginia) records just over 1,000 names. (The first subscriber listed is Thomas Jefferson; most customers evidently purchased the less expensive form, printed on paper.) For an account of the competition between Binns, Tyler and the printmaker Jonathan Trumbull, see John Bidwell, "American History in Image and Text," in Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, Vol. 98, part 2 (October 1988), no.2.
Parchment-printed copies of this important early engraved facsimile are considerably rarer than paper copies.