Authentic Historical Autographs, Historical Collectibles - The History Buff
The History Buff, Inc. - Phone: (952) 937-0325
17509 Bearpath Trail, Eden Prairie, MN 55347 or Palm Beach, FL, 33480

The 'Stone' Copy of The

Declaration of Independence

The W.J. Stone engraved Rice Paper Copy


SUMMARY: This offering is the Stone Declaration of Independence printed on rice paper. The most important of our founding documents. Price: $48,000.00

The original Declaration was not cared for properly in that is was left hanging in sunlight in the Library of Congress and its condition was obviously deteriorating.By 1820, growing concern about the condition of the original Declaration by the surviving Signers of The Declaration of Independence and other leaders resulted in an Act of Congress to reproduce a facsimile of the original. Charged with heading the project, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams commissioned engraver William J. Stone of Washington to reproduce the Declaration by engraving a copperplate facsimile from the original utilizing a wet-ink transfer process during which the original Declaration was moistened and ink was lifted directly from it and transferred to a clean copperplate, which was then engraved, creating a perfect copy of the original document.

Stone completed the task of engraving the copper plate in 1823. However the original document was almost destroyed during the ink transfer process thus making the Stone copperplate itself exceedingly valuable as the only accurate replica of the original D of I. The first time Stone used his engraved plate he printed 201 copies on the same type of vellum parchment as the original. Approximately 31 of these "vellum Stone D of I's" are known to have survived***, 19 of which are in museums. The first few copies of vellum replicas was distinguished from the original document by the fact that "Engraved by W. J. Stone for the Department of State, by order" was printed in the upper left hand corner and "of J. Q. Adams, Sec. of State July 4th 1823." was printed in the upper right hand corner.Also, Stone apparently printed a few broadsides on paper at the same time that he printed the Declarations on vellum. These broadsides have the same printings designating Sone as the engraver and that they were printed by order of John Quincy Adams in the respective corners that are present on the vellum versions.These broadsides are very rare and only three have appeared at auction in the last decade.

Later printings on vellum did not have the aforementioned printing on them.The details of how the vellum iteration was distributed are below.*** The Stone copperplate was then placed in storage. Twenty years later, in 1843, Peter Force was commissioned by Congress to to print a series of books that became known as the American Archives. The purpose of the nine-volume set was to create and preserve copies of the founding documents of the United States. The Stone engraving plate was taken from storage and used to produce copies of the D of I on rice paper for Volume I of the Fifth Series of the Archives (the seventh volume out of the nine).Originally it was planned to print 1500 copies of the rice paper iteration but the project ran out of funding and it is estimated that far less than 1000 copies were done. Both the rice paper and vellum copies are distinguishable from the original document by an engraving in the lower left corner "W.J. Stone S.C. Washn" (as shown below). After printing the copies of the D of I on rice paper the Stone plate was again retired and is now displayed at the National Archives.


This offering is a Stone Rice paper Declaration which is in very fine condition, measuring 25" x 30", showing normal folds with faint shadowing or , as it is called, ink transfer from having been inserted in the book.This type of ink transfer helps to authenticate the document.This document is still bound into into Volume I of Peter Force’s “American Archives: Fifth Series Containing a documentary History of The United States of America, from the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1775 to the Definitive Treaty of Peace with Great Britain, September 3, 1783,” (Washington: April 1848), 1787 pages, 9” x 14”. In original half sheep and marbled boards and gilt-titled spine. Some losses to spine with moderate rubbing and general wear. Library markings at lower backstrip and inside front board. Internally sound. The Force printing of the Declaration of Independence is in very fine condition.The document would be easily removed from the book to be floated in an archival frame for display.The document of course displays the W.J . Stone makers mark.


In the opinion of The History Buff this is one of the scarcest and most worthwhile American historical collectibles available today.It is as close as a citizen will ever come to owning one of America's founding documents.The Declaration of Independence along with the United States Constitution and Magna Carta are certainly the three most important political documents in the history of man. There has been a steady appreciation of the value of these documents over the past 5 years. One of the six copies of the Magna Carta sold for over 21 million dollars recently:"A rare 710-year-old copy of the Magna Carta, among the most important historical documents ever to hit the auction block, sold for $21.3 million on Tuesday at Sotheby's."

Incidentally, The vellum copy of the D of I seldom comes on the market and they are increasingly hard to find. One sold recently for in excess of $400,000. The rice paper D of I's are of course more available but, because of the fragile nature of rice paper, condition is important in determining value. Almost every rice paper item was folded at one time. However, on occasion, an unfolded one surfaces on the market but they usually sell for approximately twice what the folded ones sell for.

***On May 26, 1824, a resolution by the Senate and House of Representatives provided: “That two hundred copies of the Declaration, now in the Department of State, be distributed in the manner following: two copies to each of the surviving Signers of the Declaration of Independence (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Carroll of Carrollton); two copies to the President of the United States (Monroe); two copies to the Vice-President of the United States (Thompkins); two copies to the late President, Mr. Madison; two copies to the Marquis de Lafayette, twenty copies for the two houses of Congress; twelve copies for the different departments of the Government (State, Treasury, Justice, Navy, War and Postmaster); two copies for the President’s House; two copies for the Supreme Court room, one copy to each of the Governors of the States; and one to each of the Governors of the Territories of the United States; and one copy to the Council of each Territory; and the remaining copies to the different Universities and Colleges of the United States, as the President of the United States may direct.”

We also have a write up on the Dunlap Broadside facsimile on this web site.



The History Buff - Authentic Historical Autographs & Collectibles
17509 Bearpath Trail, Eden Prairie, MN 55347 or
Palm Beach, Florida 33480
eMail: Phone: 952-937-0325

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