Most historic: The Declaration of Independence in your collection…

March 12, 2009 by  
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I’m not sure there is much of a contest for the “most historic event of the Revolutionary War”. Can anyone make a case for anything beyond the Declaration of Independence? We’d all love to hear from you if so.

My experience is that this document is the most desired to have in an American newspaper, not just from this era but from the entire spectrum of American history.  Well, an exception might be an issue of “Public Occurrences Both Foreign and Domestic“, the Sept. 25, 1690 newspaper printed in Boston which lasted but one day and of which only one copy is known to exist. I’d trade that remarkable find for a Declaration of Independence, but nothing else.

A year or so ago I was aware of a Philadelphia newspaper containing the Declaration of Independence which brought over $400,000 in auction. So much for the average collector adding an American printing to their collection, which is why interest has been heightened in British periodicals with the document.

And it did appear in at least several British magazines and newspapers. The popular “Gentleman’s Magazine” from London carried it in their August, 1776 issue as did the “Universal Magazine” and the “London Magazine“. The “Gentleman’s & London Magazine” carried the historic text in their September issue (note: the only American magazine in print in 1776, the “Pennsylvania Magazine”, carried the Declaration text in their July issue).

It’s curious that the “London Gazette” newspaper never printed the Declaration, likely for political reasons, but it did appear in the “London Chronicle” of August 17 as well as the “Edinburgh Evening Courant” issue of August 21. I suspect we’ve sold other British periodicals containing the Declaration through the years but their titles & dates escape me.

With American imprints containing the Declaration likely to remain out of reach for most collectors–but we always hope for that magical find–I would encourage consideration of printings in other periodicals. British titles are the best as there is no language barrier and they are from a country which had, should we say, a vested interest in the event. And their prices are still within the range of many collectors. The “Gentleman’s Magazine” printing are typically under $4000 when in inventory and the “London Chronicle” is still in four figures. I suspect French, Dutch or German printings would have less interest to the average collector, although their prices would be lower when they become available.

The key for any nice newspaper collection is having a period printing, meaning a report from the time it happened. A printing of the Declaration in 1799 or 1826 just wouldn’t have the collector appeal of a July, August, or even September printing from 1776.

How desirable is owning a period printing of the Declaration of Independence to you, and what date, title, or condition compromises are you willing to make to add such an issue to your collection?

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8 Responses to “Most historic: The Declaration of Independence in your collection…”

  1. Erik Anderson on March 12th, 2009 5:41 pm

    A period printing of the Declaration of Independence would be very desirable to me, with an American printing being most ideal. The British printings just don’t excite me like an American issue would.

    There would be much more excitement and emotion in the readers (of the time period) of American printings. That is very Romantic to me.

    I would certainly be able to overlook some condition issue.

    It would be a magical thing to own an American printing of the Declaration of Independence.

  2. Charles Signer on March 14th, 2009 6:23 am

    Yes, it would be nice to have an American printing of the Declaration of Independence, but it should be considered that the document was drafted to be sent to England and read there by the people from whom independence was declared. The Declaration of Independence printed in England was also the first time the name United States of America was made public abroad. The copies of the Declaration printed in America are rare today partly because not that many were printed in the first place. Since the press in America was not fully developed at that time, many people people in America probably saw it for the first time in publications printed in England.

  3. Morris Brill on March 18th, 2009 12:49 pm

    Last week, when I was certain I was going to win the Powerball Lottery, I decided the first thing I would do with the $325,000,000 was to buy a newspaper containing a printing of the Declaration of Independence..

    Alas, they have the powerball rigged, cause I did not win a cent.

    Therefore, I dream.


  4. David Terwilliger on March 18th, 2009 3:25 pm

    I’d love a period imprint – It doesn’t matter that much to me where it was printed – I am Dutch so that’s OK and the French were on our side….

    Anyway, up to 1799 would put a smile on my face.

  5. Tim Hughes on March 18th, 2009 8:15 pm

    Morris – I believe they’ll be selling some more lottery tickets next week as well.


  6. Jeff DeAngelis on March 20th, 2009 4:21 pm

    While I too would like to own a printing of the Declaration of Independence from a US newspaper of the time, it probably will not happen unless I also win the lottery. However, I was fortunate to purchase an August 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence in the Gentleman’s Magazine from Tim Hughes a few years ago. My thrill comes from the joy of opening this paper to see the text as it appeared to all those good upstanding Englishman at the time. I can only image the insult and range this document provoked in England at that time. However, the real value is to see the awe in our local school children eyes and community when I show this document in a public setting from time to time. Everyone gets real quite when they approach the paper to get a glimpse of these historic words in print from August 1776. By offering these great newspapers, it provides a unique historical perspective of the times that shaped our nation. I vote to keep them coming!

  7. Michael Gulvin on October 15th, 2011 3:34 pm

    On what day of the month did the Gentleman’s Magazine for August, 1776 become available? We have a timeline for the American newspapers, and we know that the London Chronicle printed the DOI in its August 17th issue, but do we know the actual date the Gentleman’s Magazine printed the DOI for its August issue?

  8. Steve Rhoads on April 2nd, 2018 3:00 pm

    It’s worth noting that both The Gentleman’s Magazine and The London Magazine censored The Declaration of Independence. The Gentlemans Magazine (of which there are 2 versions printed [different titles at the top of the pages containing the DOI]) printed the first letter of “Tyranny, and “Tyrant” followed by a dash (“T——-“, “T——-“) and instead of printing the words “King” and “Prince” a solid line was used in place of those words (“—“)

    The London Magazine omitted entire sentences completely, They did this because of loyalty to the King one could assume. They omitted the following…

    “The history of the present King of Great Britain, is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations; all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.”
    “…obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither…”
    “He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws;”
    “In every stage of these Oppressions we have petitioned for redress, in the most humble terms; our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people”

    In its place they insert their own commentary…

    “The Congress next recite a number of proceedings detrimental to the colonies, most of which have been already mentioned, at different times, from the resolutions of their several assemblies, with this difference, that they now attribute the oppressions to a great person, instead of the ministry and parliament, as at their former meetings. They then conclude thus:“

    The Universal Magazine printed the ENTIRE DOI and did not edit it at all, which to me makes it more desirable though I’m curious personally as to how rare The Universal Magazine printing of the DOI is, as this is the printing I own. Aside from the copy I own I’ve only ever seen 1 other.

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