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The First Newspaper Printing, the Second Publication in Any Form and the First to Closely Follow Thomas Jefferson’s Style
[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE]. Newspaper. The Pennsylvania Evening Post, Saturday, July 6, 1776, Philadelphia: Benjamin Towne, 4 pages (8-1/2 x 10 in.)
Benjamin Towne’s Pennsylvania Evening Post was the first newspaper to print the Declaration of Independence. Towne’s Saturday, July 6, publication was preceded only by the broadside that went to John Dunlap’s press on July 4 (published on July 5), and beat Dunlap’s own newspaper, The Pennsylvania Packet, by two days. Towne was thus the second person to print the Declaration in any form, and, while the words are the same, his typesetting is markedly different from that of the official Dunlap version.
Because they preserve the text of the Declaration as first written and read, July 1776 printings like this are, in a way, even more original than the “original” engrossed manuscript, the prized treasure in the National Archives. When most Americans picture the Declaration, they envision the manuscript signed by John Hancock and 55 others, and titled “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.” But this is not an image of the document that was penned and signed on July 4, 1776. The Declaration could not have been given that title when it passed: the vote was one shy of the desired unanimity because New York’s delegates followed their state’s specific instructions and abstained. As seen in this newspaper, on July 4 the document was titled “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled” and was signed only by Continental Congress President John Hancock and Secretary Charles Thomson.
The Pennsylvania Evening Post was distributed far and wide, even by members of the Continental Congress. “I have this Moment folded up a Magazine, and an Evening Post,” John Adams wrote to Abigail on July 7, “and sent it off, by an Express, who could not wait for me to write a single Line.” As witnessed by Adams, this rare paper reflects the experience of everyday Americans as they read news of independence for the first time during that momentous July of 1776.
Declaration issues of The Pennsylvania Evening Post are rare. Our census (page 19) locates sixteen institutional and three privately held copies, including this lot. Our search of major auction records finds only six sales in a little over 100 years. Excluding second appearances, this is one of only four copies we have found recorded on the market.
Sotheby’s, Sale 6424, Fine Manuscripts and Printed Americana, May 21, 1993, lot 34.
A strong, clear impression; untrimmed, original deckled edges. Very minor crease from old fold in upper right corner of first leaf. Apparently washed in previous conservation treatment, but otherwise as fine a copy as could be imagined.
View the full catalogue for The Declaration of Independence: http://siegelauctions.com/2013/1046/1046.pdf