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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Newly Discovered 1823 William Stone Printing Of The Declaration Of Independence for Sale At Heritage Auctions

A newly discovered 1823 printing of the Declaration of Independence, painstakingly engraved and printed by William Stone to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the founding of The United States, is expected to bring $250,000+ when it comes across the auction block on April 11 as the centerpiece of Heritage Auctions’ Historical Manuscripts Signature® Auction at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion (Ukrainian Institute of America), 2 East 79th Street (at 5th Ave.).

“As America neared its 45th year, and was only six years removed from the end of the War of 1812, patriotism surged,” said Sandra Palomino, Director of Historic Manuscripts at Heritage, “and with it, a growing interest in the Declaration of Independence. In 1820, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams commissioned English-born engraver William J. Stone of Washington, D.C. to produce an exact copy of the original Declaration of Independence onto a copperplate, a process which took him three years to complete.”

In all, 200 official parchment copies were struck from the Stone plate in 1823, with one extra struck for Stone himself. Each copy is identified as “ENGRAVED by W. I. STONE for the Dept of State, by order” in the upper left corner, followed by “of J. Q. ADAMS, Sect. of State July 4th 1824” in the upper right.

“A census done of the manuscripts in 1991 located 31 copies total, of which only 12 were in private hands,” said Palomino. “Although a few other copies have surfaced since then, three of the printings in private hands have been gifted to institutions, including one given to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in 2001.”

Of the original 201 printed, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Charles Carroll – the last three surviving signers of the Declaration – former President James Madison, the Marquis de Lafayette, President James Monroe and Vice President Daniel D. Thompkins each received two copies. The President’s House and the Supreme Court chamber were also given two copies. The House and Senate received 20 copies each. The Departments of State, War, Treasury, Justice, Navy, and Postmaster all received 12 copies, while the governors and state and territorial legislatures were each given a copy. The remaining copies were sent to various Universities and colleges.

Stone kept one copy for himself. In 1888, Stone’s widow, Elizabeth J. Stone, donated his copy to the Smithsonian Institute, where it resides today.

“The copies made from Stone’s copperplate established an exact rendering of the way the Declaration looked 230 years ago after it was signed by the 56 American Patriots,” said Palomino. “The copy we’re offering is particularly special, as it appears to be untrimmed, with evidence of the copper plate in the margins. That original copperplate is now housed in the records of the Department of State at the National Archives and Records Administration.”