American Philosophical Society finds rare copy of Declaration of Independence

History coming alive in Old City Wednesday, just steps away from the Liberty Bell, where historians found a new link to the Declaration of Independence.

The familiar words, expressing the ideals on which the United States was founded. But, with a particular copy of the Declaration of Independence, the American Philosophical Society is making history in Philadelphia.

"The APS holds one of the rarest Stone Declaration copies anywhere in the world. This is only the eighth known copy," stated Librarian with APS Patrick Spero.

In 1820, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams realized there was only one handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence with original signatures and commissioned William Stone to take exact engravings and print them. 201 of them.

Historians recently discovered he also did some on paper and, until Wednesday, there were only seven known copies.

"We were missing one piece and that was a Stone Declaration and that’s what we discovered we do, in fact, have," Spero continued.

"I said ‘I have to stop treatment, something’s happening, I’m seeing something very unusual,’" Head of Conservation with American Philosophical Society Anne Downey said.

Downey said they started looking into the piece more than 20 years ago, but it wasn’t until she started treating it that she realized it was special and, through extensive science and research, confirmed it was a Stone copy.

"It’s unbelievable. It’s the highlight of conservator’s career," Downey added.

Downey’s work of conserving is far from over, but as colleagues saw it for the first time Wednesday, alongside other pieces from their Declaration collection, one of the largest in the world, it reinforces the work being done.

"They are not just dead documents. People are doing research in them all the time and making new discoveries and this is just one example of that," Spero remarked.



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