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    John Binns: Declaration of Independence, Framed Broadside. (Philadelphia: James Porter, 1819). An engraved broadside facsimile of the Declaration of Independence with medallions of seals of the thirteen original colonies forming a decorative oval surrounding the text. At the top are medallion portraits of founding fathers John Hancock, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson, above which is an eagle with shield, olive branch, and arrows holding a streamer reading "E Pluribus Unum." At the bottom, it bears an engraved endorsement of Secretary of State John Quincy Adams (son of signed John Adams) attesting to its accuracy, "Department of State, 19th, April 1819. I certify, that this is a Correct copy of the original Declaration of Independence, deposited at this Department; and that I have compared all the signatures of the original, and found them Exact Imitations."

    In the aftermath of the War of 1812, there had arisen in America a resurgence of patriotism and national pride. People had begun to revere the famous document that declared the nation's independence nearly forty years earlier as many of its original signers were aging and dying. The original Declaration of Independence was still available for viewing but only to the privileged. An Irish-born Philadelphia journalist and publisher of The Democratic Press named John Binns was one of the first to realize, in June of 1816, the potential market for a "splendid and correct copy of the Declaration of Independence, with fac-similes of all the signatures, the whole to be encircled with the arms of the thirteen States and of the United States" (as described in his solicitation for subscribers). He promised delivery in one year, but the enormity of the undertaking delayed publication until 1819 (by which time a competitor, Benjamin Owen Tyler, had rushed a less elaborate facsimile into production). Binns can certainly be given credit for doing quality work; he used as many as five artists at a time to work on the design. He borrowed portraits to copy, gathered models for the thirteen state seals, and even painted the American eagle from life. In a prospectus accompanying an incomplete state of the print submitted for copyright in November 4, 1818, Binns describes his work: "The Design in imitation of Bas Relief, will encircle the Declaration as a cordon of honor, surmounted by the Arms of the United States. Immediately underneath the arms, will be a large medallion portrait of General George Washington, supported by cornucopiae, and embellished with spears, flags, and other Military trophies and emblems. On the one side of this medallion portrait, will be a similar portrait of John Hancock,...and on the other, a portrait of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence. The arms of 'The Thirteen United States' in medallion, united by wreaths of olive leaves, will form the remainder of the cordon, which will be further enriched by some of the characteristic productions of the United States; such as the Tobacco and Indigo plants, the Cotton Shrub, Rice &c. The facsimiles will be engraved by Mr. Vallance, who will execute the important part of the publication at the City of Washington, where, by permission of the Secretary of State, he will have the original signatures constantly under his eye."

    This present engraving is 24.25" x 35" (sight size) and is wonderfully framed in gilt and florally-carved burl wood to an overall size of 43" x 54". There are approximately four tiny paper scuffs affecting no text or portrait, the paper is uniformly toned, else fine condition (not examined out of frame). This is a great example of an important broadside, the inspiration for many inferior imitations, in a condition and presentation unlikely to be surpassed. The Port Folio magazine (Philadelphia) for January 1819 reported, "We have at length been gratified with the sight of a proof-sheet of the splendid copy of the 'Declaration of Independence'; and we declare that it deserves the most liberal support..." We at Heritage declare that this lot deserves your most liberal bid.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2007
    16th-17th Monday-Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 12,055

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    I don’t often do testimonials but in this case I felt truly obligated to thank Heritage Auctions for the extremely professional job your organization did for me.
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    Pittsburgh, PA
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