Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2021 Issue

Second Highest Price Ever Paid for a Declaration of Independence

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Charles Carroll's copy of the Declaration of Independence sold at Freeman's. (Freeman's photo).

Records were set at Freeman's auction in anticipation of July 4 when a copy of the Declaration of Independence sold for over $4 million. According to Freeman's, that was the highest aucrion price ever paid for a 19th century document (not including books) and the second highest price ever paid for a Declaration of Independence. Americana is back!

 

Perhaps the surprising fact about a second highest price ever for a Declaration of Independence is that it was also the highest priced document of the 19th century. Wasn't it signed in the 18th century, all the way back in 1776? This cannot be a first edition nor anything close to it. It wasn't.

 

This copy was printed in 1823, 47 years after the original was created. In 1820, then Secretary of State John Quincy Adams commissioned facsimile copies of the Declaration. The commission to engrave and print a plate of the copy was given to William J. Stone. The Declaration was already experiencing deterioration by then, hence Adams' desire to have facsimile copies made. However, whatever process Stone used made it fade even more, so that his printings are the clearest copies of the original document in existence today, and is what is used for reproductions you might find in textbooks.

 

Adams commissioned 201 copies, of which around 50 are known to still exist. This is not an ordinary Stone copy. Among those Adams determined would receive copies, two each to be exact, were all surviving signers of the Declaration of Independence. That did not require many copies. By the time these were printed, there were only three signers left, Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and the not as well known Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Carroll is known for being the only Catholic who signed the Declaration of Independence and for one other thing. Jefferson and John Adams died in one of the greatest coincidences in American history. Both died on July 4, 1776, exactly 50 years to the day after it was first ratified. That made Carroll the last surviving signer. He lived until November 14, 1832, age 95, and 56 years after he signed the document, the only signer to survive more than 50 years later.

 

Carroll was a large land owner in Maryland, one of the wealthiest men in the colonies before the Revolution. You might think such a person would be a loyalist but he was anything but. He argued against colonial rule, recognizing that ultimately, only revolution would free the colonies. He was selected to the Continental Congress of 1776, hence his becoming a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He later served in the Maryland Senate and the U.S. Senate representing his home state.

 

Adams' two copies of Stone's printing today reside with the Massachusetts Historical Society. Jefferson's two copies were dispersed among his family and their whereabouts today is unknown. Carroll's two copies passed to his granddaughter, Emily Caton, and her husband, John MacTavish. MacTavish gave one of those copies to the Maryland Historical Society (now Maryland Center for History and Culture) in 1844. The other? That was unknown for 177 years, until...

 

What it was doing in those 177 years is uncertain, but can be surmised. It was rediscovered by Cathy Marsden, a Rare Books Specialist at British auction house Lyon & Turnbull, while going through papers in the attic of a home in Scotland. She explained, “It was a wonderful surprise to find the Stone facsimile unknowingly hidden in the family home. What at first glance appeared to be an unassuming old document nestled within a pile of papers, has turned out to be a fascinating and important piece of American history.”

 

But, how did Carroll's copy end up in Scotland? That is unknown for certain, but one can imagine based on his grandson-in-law's name, “MacTavish.” He was actually a British consul in Maryland when he married Carroll's granddaughter, with ancestors back in Scotland. It is therefore not that surprising that it would end up where it did. Lyon & Turnbull did not reveal who the seller was, their wishing to remain anonymous, so we can't say whether that person was a descendant of the MacTavish family. What we can say confidently is that somewhere along the way, the owners lost track of the document, or at least its significance, so that they had no idea they had something valuable, let alone worth millions of dollars. We also can say that it made one more trip, back to America. Lyon & Turnbull and Freeman's have a cooperative arrangement so that the sale was held in the more logical location, Philadelphia, U.S.A., home to Freeman's.

 

The final price, after furious bidding by several parties on July 1, was $4,420,000. This number was a surprise, even to Freeman's, which put an estimate of $500,000-$800,000 on it. The buyer has chosen to remain anonymous. This price for a Declaration of Independence was second only to a first printing by John Dunlap on the night of July 4-5, 1776. One of those sold in 2000 for $8.1 million.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br> Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Americana<br>Online<br>Now through January 25, 2022</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Audubon, John James. The "Wild Turkey" manuscript — capturing one of the nation's most iconic symbols of unity. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> (Flag) — Commemorative Thirteen-Star Flag. Pre-Civil War, Thirteen-Star Flag of the United States, from the collection of Charles Kuralt. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Fitzgerald, F. Scott. <i>Tender is the Night</i>. First edition, presentation copy, and a former mystery. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Audubon, John James. The "Wild Turkey" manuscript — capturing one of the nation's most iconic symbols of unity. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Salinger, J.D. <i>The Catcher in the Rye.</i> A strikingly fresh first edition of Salinger's essential novel. $20,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Whitman, Walt. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> “America's second Declaration of Independence” — signed by Whitman. $150,000 to $200,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> [Dylan, Bob]. Some of the earliest known professional portraits. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Y-Worth [Yarworth], William. <i>Cerevisiarii Comes: Or, the New and True Art of Brewing…</i> A rare and early English work on the art of brewing. $5,000 to $7,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> RUTH BADER GINSBERG’S PERSONAL COPY OF THE 1957-58 HARVARD LAW REVIEW, HEAVILY ANNOTATED BY HER.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> RUTH BADER GINSBURG’S TEXTBOOK FOR HER “CIVIL PROCEDURE” CLASS AT HARVARD, HEAVILY ANNOTATED BY HER.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> RUTH BADER GINSBURG’S TEXTBOOK FOR COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL CLASS ON JURISPRUDENCE, HEAVILY ANNOTATED BY HER.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> HONORARY DOCTORATE AWARDED TO RUTH BADER GINSBURG BY SMITH COLLEGE, 1994.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> A COPY OF JUSTICE GINSBURG’S ARTICLE, “WOMEN IN THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY,” SIGNED AND INSCRIBED BY THE JUSTICE TO SENATOR NANCY KASSEBAUM.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> A COPY OF SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR’S ARTICLE, “THEY OFTEN ARE HALF-OBSCURE: THE RIGHTS OF THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE LEGACY OF OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES,” PRESENTED TO RUTH BADER GINSBURG.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> A DELUXE EDITION OF ANTONIN SCALIA’S MAKING YOUR CASE: THE ART OF PERSUADING JUDGES, FROM AN EDITION OF 2000, SIGNED AND INSCRIBED TO RUTH BADER GINSBURG.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> A FIRST EDITION OF SONIA SOTOMAYOR’S <i>MY BELOVED WORLD,</i> SIGNED AND INSCRIBED TO RUTH BADER GINSBURG.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> A FIRST EDITION OF AL GORE’S “THE ASSAULT ON REASON,” SIGNED AND INSCRIBED TO RUTH BADER GINSBURG.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> <i>BELOVED</i> BY TONI MORRISON, SIGNED AND INSCRIBED BY THE AUTHOR TO RUTH AND MARTIN GINSBURG.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> A FIRST EDITION OF GLORIA STEINEM’S “MY LIFE ON THE ROAD,” SIGNED AND INSCRIBED TO RUTH BADER GINSBURG.
  • <b>Il Ponte Casa d’Aste, Jan. 25:</b> DANTE ALIGHIERI (1265-1321). <i>Commedia.</i> Venezia: Vindelino da Spira, 1477. Estimate: € 40.000 - 60.000.
    <b>Il Ponte Casa d’Aste, Jan. 25:</b> DALI, Salvador (1908-1989) - William SHAKESPEARE (1564-1616). <i>Romeo e Giulietta.</i> Milan: Rizzoli, 1975. Estimate: € 25.000 - 35.000.
    <b>Il Ponte Casa d’Aste, Jan. 25:</b> MALVASIA, Cornelio; MONTANARI, Geminiano. <i>Ephemerides novissimae motuum coelestium.</i> Modena: Cassiani, 1662. Estimate: € 8.000 - 12.000.
    <b>Il Ponte Casa d’Aste, Jan. 25:</b> JANSSONIUS, Johannes. <i>Atlantis majoris quinta pars, Orbem maritimum [Novus Atlas, volume V: carte marittime].</i> Amsterdam: Janssonius, 1650. Estimate: € 12.000 - 18.000.
  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>A Record Breaking Season</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> <i>The Book of Mormon,</b> first edition, Palmyra, NY, 1830. Sold Sept. 30 — $112,500.
    <b>Swann:</b> Vincent Van Gogh, <i>Homme à la Pipe: Portrait du Docteur Gachet, Evening,</i> etching, 1890. Sold Nov. 2 — $161,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Edward Ruscha, <i>Stains,</i> title page, one of 70, signed, 1969. Sold Nov. 9 — $112,500.
    <b>Swann:</b> John James Audubon, <i>Carolina Parrot, Plate 26,</i> hand colored aquatint, 1828. Sold Dec.9 — $137,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Edmund Dulac, <i>The Snow Queen,</i> watercolor, gouache, pen & ink, 1910. Sold Dec. 16 — $125,000.
  • <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>26 January 2022<br>Printed Books & Maps,<br>The Sinclair Hood Library of Archaeology,<br>The Charles Tomlinson Poetry Library</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Biggs (Thomas, Hope, Theodore C & Fergusson, James). <i>Architecture at Ahmedabad, The Capital of Goozerat,</i> 1st edition, London: John Murray, 1866. £3,000 to £5,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Daniell (Thomas and William). <i>Oriental Scenery. One Hundred and Fifty Views of the Architecture, Antiquities and Landscape Scenery of Hindoostan,</i> 6 parts, 1812-16. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Hamilton (Sir William & Pierre Francois Hugues d'Hancarville). Collection of Etruscan, Greek and Roman Antiquities from the Cabinet of the Hon.ble Wm Hamilton, volumes I & II only (of 4), Naples, 1766-67. £7,000 to £10,000.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>26 January 2022<br>Printed Books & Maps,<br>The Sinclair Hood Library of Archaeology,<br>The Charles Tomlinson Poetry Library</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Moore (Lieutenant Joseph & Captain Frederick Marryat). Eighteen Views taken at & near Rangoon, [1825]. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Williamson (Captain Thomas & Howitt, Samuel). <i>Oriental Field Sports; Being a Complete, Detailed and Accurate Description of the Wild Sports of the East;</i> 1st edition, London, 1807. £5,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Knoop (Johann Hermann). <i>Pomologia, dat is Beschryvingen en Afbeeldingen van de beste zoorten van Appels en Peeren, Fructologia …,</i> 3 volumes in 1, Leeuwarden: A Ferwerda and G. Tresling, [1758]. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>26 January 2022<br>Printed Books & Maps,<br>The Sinclair Hood Library of Archaeology,<br>The Charles Tomlinson Poetry Library</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> North America. Wyld (James), Map of the Colony of British Columbia and the British & American Territory West of the Rocky Mountains, Including Vancouvers Island and the Gold Fields, 1858. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Pocket Globe. A Correct Globe with the New Discoveries, circa 1785. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Wales. Morden (Robert), Twelve 'playing card maps' of Wales, circa 1676. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>26 January 2022<br>Printed Books & Maps,<br>The Sinclair Hood Library of Archaeology,<br>The Charles Tomlinson Poetry Library</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Society of Dilettanti. <i>Antiquities of Ionia,</i> 5 volumes: 1821, 1797, 1840, 1881 & 1915. £3,000 to £5,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Churchill (Winston Spencer). <i>The People's Rights,</i> 1st edition, 1st issue, London: Hodder & Stoughton, [1910]. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Paz (Octavio). <i>Blanco,</i> 1st edition, limited numbered edition, Mexico: Joaquín Mortiz, 1967. £500 to £800.

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