Harvard finds parchment copy of Declaration of Independence

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Harvard University researchers say they've discovered a second parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence, The Boston Globe reported Friday, April 21, 2017.

The researchers believe the "Sussex Declaration", as they call it, was owned by the Third Duke of Richmond, known at the time as the "Radical Duke" for his support of the American revolutionaries during the war of Independence.

Sneff and Allen plan to publish their first paper this year in the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, and are still working to find more clues about who had the parchment created.

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The only other parchment copy is maintained by the National Archives in Washington, D.C., researchers Emily Sneff and Danielle Allen said in a statement.

"As those details started adding up, I brought it to my research partner's attention and we realized this was different from any other copy we had seen". They concluded it dated to the 1780s, and was produced in America, most likely in NY or Philadelphia.

The parchment was likely made in NY or Philadelphia.

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This copy of the Declaration, they believe, was commissioned by James Wilson, who both signed the Declaration and was a delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention. "Those copies would have made their way across to England as well - there are Dunlap broadsides in their National Archives". It's not every day that a new hire - even one at Harvard University - stumbles upon a rare piece of American history that dates back to the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams and of course John Hancock.

Unlike previously known copies of the declaration, which have signatures grouped by states, the Sussex copy has its signatures in a patterned jumble.

On most documents, Allen said, the protocol was for members of each state delegation to sign together, with signatures typically running either down the page or from left to right, and with the names of the states labelling each group. "It is the only version of the Declaration that does that, with the exception of an engraving from 1836 that derives from it".

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"The team hypothesizes that this detail supported efforts, made by Wilson and his allies during the Constitutional Convention and ratification process, to argue that the authority of the Declaration rested on a unitary national people, and not on a federation of states", the press release said. "This is really a symbolic way of saying we are all one people, or 'one community, ' to quote James Wilson".

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