gives rare Declaration of Independence items to library
Melissa Cox Norris
goes without saying that the Declaration of Independence is an
American icon. But theres more to the story than just the
finished product. The University
Library will now be able to tell more of that story, thanks
to a gift from alumnus Albert H. Small, a former Board of Visitors
member. Small has given 10 Declaration-related items to the University,
including the only known letter written by a signer on the day
of the signing and what amounts to an autograph book containing
the signatures of many Founding Fathers.
detail from Caesar Rodneys thunder and rain
letter, written to his brother on July 4, 1776, which describes
a hurried trip to Philadelphia to give my voice in the
matter of Independence. Caesar Rodneys crucial
vote made all 13 colonies unanimous in their decision to break
free from Great Britain.
July 4, 1776, Caesar Rodney, a delegate to the Continental Congress
from Delaware, wrote to his brother Thomas describing a hurried
trip to Philadelphia on horseback through thunder and rain
in time to give my voice in the matter of Independence.
Rodneys crucial vote made all 13 colonies unanimous in their
decision to break free from Great Britain.
historic letter, the only one written on that momentous day by
a signer of the Declaration of Independence that refers specifically
to his own role in the vote, is among 10 rare Declaration-related
items recently given to the University of Virginia Library by
gift is the second from Smalls personal Declaration of Independence
collection, the most comprehensive in the world about the document.
He has pledged the entire collection to the University.
items in this recent gift will be on display, along with other
highlights from his collection, in the Declaration of Independence
Room that will be part of the new Albert and Shirley Small Special
Collections Library soon to be under construction. Small also
contributed funds for the new building.
of the new gift include:
A broadside from June 12, 1775, in which Thomas Gage, British
commander in North America, declares martial law and warns the
American rebels to renounce their cause or face retribution. In
this, one of only four copies known to exist, Gage offers to pardon
anyone who ceases their rebellious behavior, except for Samuel
Adams and John Hancock, whose offenses were considered too serious
An engraved Declaration of Independence printed by William J.
Stone, a noted engraver of the time, in 1823 under the authority
of Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. By an act of Congress,
two copies were given to the Marquis de Lafayette and one hung
in his bedroom. Only 31 of the original 200 Stone engravings are
known to exist today.
A manuscript subscription book belonging to Benjamin Owen Tyler
in which he collected signatures from such notable figures as
Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, John Marshall
and Henry Clay as orders for his elaborately engraved facsimile
of the Declaration of Independence published in 1818.
Smalls gift significantly adds to our American history materials
in Special Collections, said Michael Plunkett, director
of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at
U.Va. In addition to being historically valuable, these
items tell about the preparation, production and printing of the
Declaration, as well as about the individuals behind this important
moment in American history.
2000, Small gave an important group of early printings of the
Declaration from the various 13 colonies. The remainder of his
collection includes similar historically important materials such
as one of 25 known first-printings by John Dunlap of the Declaration
of Independence, which, according to recent research, belonged
to George Washington. Also in the collection are a complete set
of autographed letters from all 56 signers, a majority dating
from 1776, and various copies of John Trumbulls famous painting
depicting the signing.
Small has patiently and methodically amassed the most comprehensive
Declaration of Independence collection possible today, said
Chris Coover, senior specialist in manuscripts and Americana at
Christies auction house in New York, who inventoried the
a real-estate developer in Bethesda, Md. and major donor to the
University, said that he is giving his Declaration of Independence
collection so that it can be open and accessible to all.
Small joins a distinguished roster of collectors such as Tracy
W. McGregor, Clifton Waller Barrett, and Paul Mellon whose gifts
have strengthened immeasurably the Universitys collections,
said Karin Wittenborg, University librarian.
the Special Collections Web site at www.lib.virginia.edu/speccol