The Legendary Stone Facsimile of the Declaration of Independence
William Stone. Declaration of Independence. SC Washn.,
[n.d., ca. 1848]. Printed on rice paper. Approximately 29 x 25.75
inches. Usual folds, one two-inch tear to right margin, affecting
some text. In the lower left in faint print is "W. J. Stone SC
Washn." As issued. A very good copy of this extremely rare and
fragile item. [Bound into]: Peter Force. American
Archives... Complete in nine volumes. Condition
report for volumes available online. The Declaration of
Independence in Volume I of the Fifth Series is inserted between
columns 1,596 and 1,597.
In 1820, printer William Stone was commissioned by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams to make an official facsimile of the Declaration of Independence, due to the fact that the original had been handled so much at the time it was feared it would not survive. (There is some indication that Stone's official facsimile was intended to replace the original, and some people blame Stone for the original's poor condition. But it is more likely that the original was already in poor condition, having nothing to do with Stone.) It is unknown what process Stone used in copying the original, and it took him three years to satisfactorily create a copper plate for the facsimile. He printed 200 copies on vellum in 1824 for surviving signers and various governmental departments. In 1823 Stone contracted (or at least invoiced) Peter Force for 4,000 copies printed (or to be printed on rice paper - it is unclear when they were actually printed from the modified original plate). About 1,500 copies were folded and went into Force's American Archives Fifth Series.
Force had initially planned twenty volumes of American Archives in six "series," but only nine were completed: the volumes containing documents of the Revolutionary War era. The First, Second, Third, and Sixth Series were never published. "This great storehouse of British Colonial and American history was printed by order of the United States Government. It was the intention to divide the work into six series, from 1493 to 1789. The nine volumes described are all that have appeared" (Sabin). Peter Force (1790-1868) drew on his own huge private collection of printed and manuscript documents relating to the history of North America and the United States as sources for these Archives. When the Library of Congress was established in 1867, one year before his death, his treasure trove of documents was purchased -- by an Act of Congress -- for the astounding sum of $100,000. A massive work and an invaluable collection of Americana. Sabin 25053.
[Bound into]:Peter Force. American Archives: Consisting of a Collection of Authentick Records, State Papers, Debates, and Letters and Other Notices of Publick Affairs, the Whole Forming a Documentary History of the Origin and Progress of the North American Colonies; of the Causes and Accomplishment of the American Revolution; and of the Constitution of Government for the United States, to the Final Ratification Thereof. Complete in nine volumes, comprising: Fourth Series: From the King's Message, of March 7th, 1774 to the Declaration of Independence, by the United States, in 1776. Washington, D.C., 1837-1846. Complete in six volumes. [and:] Fifth Series: From the Declaration of Independence, in 1776, to the Definitive Treaty of Peace with Great Britain, in 1783. Washington, D.C., 1848-1853. Complete in three volumes. First edition. The set complete in nine large quarto volumes (13.75 x 8.75 inches), comprising the complete Fourth Series and Fifth Series [all published]. Pages double-columned, with each column enumerated as a separate page; each volume approximately 1,800 "columns." Indices. Maps, facsimile documents (some folding). Contemporary half brown calf over marbled boards, spines gilt. Bindings with boards detached (one volume lacking rear board), text browned. A fair set.
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