Library Receives Rare Declaration Of Independence Items From Collector
Albert H. Small
January 30, 2002-- On 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 Albert
H. Small, a U.Va. alumnus and former Board of Visitors member.
gift is the second by Small from his personal Declaration of Independence
collection, the most comprehensive in the world about the document.
Small has pledged the entire collection to the University, where
items will eventually be on prominent display. Highlights of the
new gift include:
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 for
engraved Declaration of Independence printed by William J. Stone
in 1823 under the authority of Secretary of State John Quincy
Adams. Stone, a noted engraver of the time, used a wet-ink process
to create a copperplate of the original Declaration, thus producing
an exact copy of the document and its signatures. 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.
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 also
help to tell the full story behind the Declaration. They tell about
the preparation, production, and printing of the Declaration, as
well as about the individuals behind this important moment in American
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 Declaration materials such as one
of 25 known first-printings by John Dunlap of the Declaration of
Independence, which, according to Dr. Joseph E. Fields, in research
published in 1996, 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 collection.
"His signers collection of letters is certainly the finest
in private hands today and could not be duplicated."
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. "These
items tell the story of the Declaration of Independence and of those
brave and bold men who put their lives at risk for our country and
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.
items in this recent gift will be on display, along with other highlights
from Smalls collection, in the Declaration of Independence
Room that will be part of the new Albert and
Small Special Collections Library soon to be under construction.
Small also contributed funds for the new building.
items from this recent gift are available now in Special Collections
and are fully cataloged in VIRGO, the librarys online catalog
located at www.lib.virginia.edu.
Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library houses the
Universitys many outstanding collections of rare books and
manuscripts. The primary focus of these collections is American
history and literaturein particular, the Tracy W. McGregor
Library of American History and the Clifton Waller Barrett Library
of American Literature. Among the treasures to be found in Special
Collections are many Thomas Jefferson papers and his architectural
drawings of the University of Virginia; the Paul Mellon Collection
of Americana; and the largest single collection of William Faulkner
editions, manuscripts, and personal papers. To learn more about
the resources found in Special Collections, visit the Web site www.lib.virginia.edu/speccol
or call (434) 924-3025.
Melissa Cox Norris, (434) 924-4254