Harvard University researchers have just announced that they’ve discovered another parchment copy, one of only two, of the Declaration of Independence.
The researchers, Emily Sneff and Prof. Danielle Allen, date the document to the 1780’s. It was found in the southern England town of Chichester.
There’s been only one other parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence found, and it’s the one in Washington D.C.’s National Archives.
Boston Globe reports:
[The parchment copy] was found in the town of Chichester archives, and is believed to have originally belonged to Duke of Richmond who was known as the “Radical Duke,’’ for the support he gave to Americans during the Revolutionary War, the researchers said.
The parchment was likely made in New York or Philadelphia. The researchers are still trying to determine the person who wrote the document and who paid for the foundational document of the United States to be copied.
What’s more, the Sussex copy contains signatures which aren’t broken down by state, as the copy in the National Archives has.
Emily Sneff was working on a database to list every known copy of the Declaration of Independence and noticed that the Susex archive listed one on parchment. She was very used to seeing 19th century reproductions, but up analysis of pictures of the document, she realized that the copy may be older and authentic.
Harvard Gazette reports:
Sneff contacted the archive, the West Sussex Record Office, whose staff mailed her a disc with photos of the document.
“When I looked at it closely, I started to see details, like names that weren’t in the right order — John Hancock isn’t listed first, there’s a mark at the top that looks like an erasure, the text has very little punctuation in it — and it’s in a handwriting I hadn’t seen before,” she said. “As those details started adding up, I brought it to Danielle’s attention and we realized this was different from any other copy we had seen.”
“We knew we had a mystery,” said Allen, the James Bryant Conant University Professor and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. “We had a big, big mystery.”
The copy is different from others, but it’s a uniqueness makes it a parchment treasure.
A 1776 printing of the Declaration of Independence, one of five surviving copies, auctioned off for $1.5 million on Saturday in Potsdam, New York.
The auction consisted of two lots. The first was John Holt’s broadside printing of the Declaration, which was printed in White Plains shortly after the signing of the Declaration in Philadelphia, along with eight supporting documents. This particular copy was addressed to Col. David Mulford of East Hampton, and has remained in his family for the 241 years since — the only Holt printing with such a well-documented history.
The second lot was a collection of over 70 documents that chronicle the history of the Mulford, Gardiner and Buell families, including receipts, wills, and rare broadsides covering a period of time from 1667-1815.
Both lots were sold to Holly M. Kinyon of California, who flew in just for the auction.
“My great-grandmother’s name was Witherspoon, and our Witherspoon lineage is direct to John Witherspoon, who signed” the Declaration, Kinyon said. “One of the more profound experiences I’ve ever had was when I saw (the Declaration) in D.C. as a younger woman — it’s difficult to explain how important this is to me, personally.”
“I think all my ancestors would be very pleased today,” she said. “I am going to take the rest of my life to look at these documents, and to enjoy them.”
Kinyon paid $1.5 million for the Declaration, setting a world record for any New York printing of the Declaration, and $290,000 for the second lot of documents.
The documents will eventually be made accessible to the public. Kinyon said she would like to meet with the original owner, if possible, and then she plans to travel to Washington, D.C., to consult a friend who works for the National Parks Service.
“I intend to display the documents as soon as I can learn how to do that,“ she said. “It will not be in my home, I want to make that very clear,”
Kinyon does not know where the documents will eventually be housed.