[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE] FORCE, PETER. American Archives. Fifth Series. Volume I [-III].
Washington: Peter Force, 1848; Together with "In Congress, July 4, 1776. The Unanimous Declaration..." The Declaration of Independence extracted from the preceding. Washington: 1848 or perhaps 1833. Single sheet facsimile in actual size, printed from the copper plate of the 1823 Stone facsimile, bearing the "W.J. Stone SC. Washington" imprint at lower left. 28 3/4 x 25 1/2 inches (73 x 65 cm), printed on strong thin "rice paper." The first volume of the Archives with the binding heavily worn, the remaining two volumes less so. The Declaration with the tab mounting extending one inch from the upper left margin, short tear (also approximately one inch) in the blank upper margin, almost horizontal, the usual folds from having been bound into the Archives volume, these generally strong and without separations or significant evidence of misfolding, a few spots of foxing and mild toning, in all a very nice example indeed with full margins.
William J. Stone prepared the original copper plate from which this is printed at the behest of Congress, publishing 200 copies on parchment vellum in 1823. These were issued because of concerns that the inks of the original were fading and deteriorating, although it has been claimed that Stone himself furthered the deterioration by using a "wet transfer" technique in preparing his plate; this claim remains controversial.
In 1833 the historian and printer Peter Force was authorized by Congress to prepare an extensive work on America in the Colonial and Revolutionary period, to be known as the American Archives. Additionally, Congress authorized him to use the Stone plate for further strikes, so that an affordable facsimile could be made available and incorporated in the work. The precise date at which Force printed his copies of the Declaration remains somewhat speculative; it is between the 1833 date of authorization and the 1848 publication of the Fifth Series of the Archives, in which the work appeared. The Archives were not a success: only the Fourth and Fifth series were ever published, and even these were severely undersubscribed. In consequence, how many copies of the Declaration were printed, and how many were inserted, remains uncertain, but as the projected edition of the work was 1500 copies, assuming the engravings were struck at a date earlier than publication, that is the likely maximum; it remains possible that as few as 500 were actually completed. Of these, relatively few appear to survive: while by no means rare, the examples that were folded into the book tended to deteriorate along the folds through use, though this copy has been spared that fate.
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