The Albert J. Small Declaration of Independence Collection
The Declaration of Independence Collection
housed in the Albert J. Small Library, University of Virginia, is the most comprehensive in the world. Small's interest in
the Declaration of Independence and his avid collecting of antiquarian and rare works
has resulted in a special collection, unique among collections. Albert Small pledged his entire collection
to the University of Virginia. The Declaration of Independence collaction traces the writing,
printing, and dissemination of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
(The following material
is taken from a University of Virginia Library Press Release dated January 30, 2002.) The collection includes "An
engraved Declaration of Independence printed by William J. Stone in 1823 under the authority of
Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, This [rare] copy belonged to the Marquis de Lafayette. Stone, a noted engraver
of the time, used a wet-ink process to create a copperplate of the original Declaration, thus producing an exact copy of the
document and its signatures. One of 200 printed for Congress, this copy belonged to Lafayette and once hung in his bedroom.
Only 31 of the original 200 Stone engravings are known to exist today."
The collection includes "A
[rare] manuscript subscription book belonging to Benjamin Owen Tyler in which he collected singatures from such notable
figures as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, John Marshall, and Henry Clay as orders for his elaborately
engraved facsimile of the Declaration of Independence published in 1818.
"In 2000, Small
gave an important group of early printings of the Declaration from the various 13 colonies. The remainder of his
collection includes similar historically important Declaration materials such as one of 25 known [actually 26 known
rare] first-printings by John Dunlap of the Declaration of Independence;
a complete set of autographed letters from all 56 signers, a majority dating from 1776; and various copies of John Trumbull's
famous painting depicting the signing."
Referring to his collection, Albert Small says "These [rare]
items tell the story of the Declaration of Independence and of those brave and bold men who put
their lives at risk for our country and future."
Signers of the Declaration of Independence Collections
Most Declaration of
Independence collections are held by libraries. The New York State Library, Manuscripts and Special Collections,
holds a United States Declaration of Independence Signers Collection. "The collection
consists of original manuscript letters and documents containing autographs of the signers of the Declaration of
Independence. The collection was originally assembled by Israel K. Tefft of Savannah Georgia." Also
in the collection is the scrapbook which originally contained the Israel K. Tefft collection.
Princeton University Library, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections,
has a Signers of the Declaration of Independence Collection, dated 1765-1813. "The
collection contains one or more letters and/or documents of each of thirty-six signers of the Declaration
of Independence. Among those represented in the collection are John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John
Hancock, Francis Hoopkinson, Thomas Jefferson, Arthus Lee, Richard Henry Lee, Benjamin Rush, James Wilson, and John Witherspoon."
Declaration of Independence Collection
More than 100,000 books, pamphlets, and periodicals
were published during the period, 1776-1825. A mere 358 reprint the text of the Declaration of Independence; two
thirds of these do not mention the Declaration in their titles. Some of these antiquarian works are rare
and valuable; some remarkably are still attainable by collectors. But, collecting these works is difficult without
the aid of a checklist, or guide, to help identify the works that repirnt the text of the Declaration. Each such
work is a primary information source, important in its own right, but doubly important because it reprints the Declaration
of Independence. The increasing higher prices demanded in the marketplace for these works is, no doubt,
reflective of a growing interest in collecting these early antiquarian and rare items.
In 1979, the author began collecting antiquarian and rare books, pamphlets,
periodicals and newspapers printing the Declaration of Independence. Eventually, the collection
was limited to the 50-year period, 1776-1825. In order to facilitate his collecting efforts, the author created a
checklist of titles of works reprinting the full text of the Declaration of Independence, in English.
The (just published) Checklist of Books, Pamphlets, and Periodicals, Printing the Declaration of Independence,
1776-1825, is now available to the public.