A previously unknown broadside of the Declaration of Independence has recently surfaced in a southern plantation house and will be put up for sale at auction in the spring, Christie's, the art auction firm, announced today. The document is expected to sell for more than $200,000.
The broadside is one of an unknown number of large sheets of printed paper turned out hastily on the evening of July 4, 1776, by printer John Dunlap to announce to the public the adoption of the Declaration. It is the 22nd copy to come to light since the 19th century when all were thought to have vanished.
The document was discovered among family papers in 1979 by John Gilman Wood in the library at Hayes Plantation in Edenton, N.C. The plantation used to be the home of William Samuel Johnson, a prominent 18th-century statesman who was a member of the first Continental Congress, governor of North Carolina and the state's first senator. Wood's family inherited the plantation from the Johnsons more than 100 years ago.
Wood checked the broadside's authenticity with Dr. F.R. Gaff, who was then honorary consultant in early printed books at the Library of Congress. Gaff said the document was "virtually as fresh as the day it issued from John Dunlap's press."
Christie's intends to include the document in a special sale April 22 as part of the "Britain Salutes New York" celebration to mark the bicentennial of the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War.
"We've renamed the celebration "Britain Shoots New York," quipped a Christie's spokesman, "and we may have our English president, John Floyd, conduct the sale. One of his ancestors was a signer of the Declaration, and he's never had an occasion to boast about it before now."
The last broadside offered at auction, also at Christie's, brought $285,000.