Rarely Encountered 1818 Benjamin Owen Tyler Broadside of the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE The First Historical “Artistic Engraving” Using Facsimile Signatures
(DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE), 1818 Copper-Plate Engraved Printing by Benjamin Owen Tyler, Printed Upon Heavy Paper with Linen Backing, Period Mounted with Original Wooden Scrolls for Wall Display Presentation.
Exceedingly Rare, original Copper-Plate Engraved Printed Broadside and headed, “In Congress, July 4th 1776, The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America,” the print measuring 23” wide x 29.5” tall (by sight) having its full outer margins and selvage intact to 25.25” x 31.5” now still ready to hang upon display, Very Fine.
This is the First “Artistic Engraving” of the Declaration of Independence using facsimile signatures, being released by Tyler in April of 1818. Benjamin Owen Tyler's engraving of the Declaration employed exceptional decorative ornamental script supplemented with facsimile signatures below, directly copied from the original “Engrossed” Hand-Signed Original copy of the Declaration. Tyler maintained every small detail and nuance of the original signatures, preserving their various proportions, stress and weight as made by the original Signers. Tyler's facsimile signatures were so exact that in fact they were often mistaken for the originals!
Attesting to the accuracy is the printed statement of Richard Rush, Secretary of State, which reads, in part: “I myself have examined the signatures... Those executed by Mr. Tyler are curiously exact imitations, so much so that it would be difficult if not impossible for the closest scrutiny to distinguish them.”
In the upper left-right margins is found Tyler’s dedication to Thomas Jefferson, “To Thomas Jefferson, Patron of the Arts, the firm Supporter of American Independence, and the Rights of Man, this Charter of Freedom is, with the highest esteem, most Respectfully Inscribed by his much Obliged and very Humble Servant Benjamin Owen Tyler.” At the bottom, Tyler adds, “The publisher designed and executed the ornamental writing... and has also observed the same punctuation, and copied every Capital as in the original."
This extremely rare Broadside example of the First Artistic printing of the Declaration of Independence has a very clean, even appearing printed face, easily grading Choice Very Fine. Benjamin Owen Tyler was a self-taught calligrapher and penmanship instructor. When he asked Thomas Jefferson for permission to dedicate the engraving to him, Jefferson consented. Tyler later sent Jefferson a copy of his work printed upon Parchment. Sometime after May of 1818, he paid a personal visit to Jefferson’s home at Monticello where he spent the day teaching penmanship to Jefferson's family! Jefferson was also Listed as the Very First “Subscriber.”
We previously offered a similar Hanging Scroll format example of this Broadside, which sold in our EAHA Auction of April 23, 2005, Lot 51, also upon linen cloth backing, in slightly lower quality being graded Fine, for $8,338. Another example printed on paper, lacking the special display scroll mounting, was offered by Christie’s in their Sale 2514, May 19, 2011, in about the same condition but with some fold holes, sold for $13,750. Finally, a framed example printed upon heavy wove paper, graded Choice Very Fine, sold in our EAHA Auction of August 25, 2012, Lot 26, sold for $21,240. As one can clearly see, these have been steadily increasing in popularity with collectors and in market value.
This current Printed Broadside, Large Folio, 31” x 25.25” is presented being specially mounted to it’s original wooden display scrolls for hanging, one page, linen backing, dated 1818. Inscribed along the lower margin: "Copied from the original Declaration of Independence in the Department of State and published by Benjamin Owen Tyler, Professor of penmanship, City of Washington 1818. The Publisher designed and executed the ornamental writing and has been particular to copy the facilitates exact, and has also observed the same punctuation and copied every Capital as in the original. Engraved by Peter Maverick, Newark, N.J.”
Original in every respect, evenly toned, and having specially mounted on custom turned black wooden scroll mounts at bottom with one decorative design at top, for ease of hanging on display. It has expected minor dampstaining tone, some wrinkling, a few short closed tears, one crossing through dedication in upper left. The nicely prepared, attractive outer edges have red reinforcement for rolling and unrolling as designed, being edged in Hand-Stitched red linen attached with red thread, measuring side to side about 25.25” wide (retaining its nice large one-inch outer margins) by 31” tall by sight, plus add about another inch tall to be fully inclusive of its wooden display mounts. Also, its small Brass ring hanger is attached at center top, as made.
This superior quality 1818 Benjamin Owen Tyler Broadside is ready for hanging upon display, as originally prepared back in 1818. It is the very finest original Paper specimen of the famous 1818 Benjamin Owen Tyler Printed Declaration of Independence Broadside Mounted upon its Original Wooden Scrolls for Wall Display Presentation we have offered.
The first broadside Declaration of Independence to include facsimile signatures. Tyler's rival, John Binns, was the first to announce such an undertaking and collect subscriptions, but he took more than three years to complete the work. In the meantime, Tyler completed this broadside, even securing a endorsement from the acting Secretary of State Richard Rush, whose departmental seal is engraved into the lower left, along with his note describing the signatures as "curiously exact imitations." The broadside is dedicated to Thomas Jefferson above the title.
Tyler made no effort to match the handwriting in the body of the Declaration. He was a writing master by trade who published other examples of his calligraphy; the text is intended to showcase his craft, with selected key words emphasized with ornamental script. He spared no expense on the printing, boasting that he paid $200 per ream for the paper and $1500 for the copperplate, which was engraved by Peter Maverick of Newark, NJ. Bidwell, American History in Image and Text 2, and pages 250-262.
The Christie’s description adds the following historic information for collectors, as follows:
BENJAMIN OWEN TYLER'S CAREFUL 1818 FACIMILE OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, DEDICATED TO THOMAS JEFFERSON
The publication of an expensive engraved reproduction of Jonathan Trumbull's famous painting "The Declaration of Independence" coincided with publication of two competing engraved facsimiles of the Declaration of Independence itself, one by John Binns (embellished with portraits of principal patriots), the other by Massachusetts engraver and entrepreneur Benjamin Owen Tyler. The simultaneous appearance of the three engravings reflects the American public's heightened reverence for the nation's fundamental charter as it approached its 50-year anniversary, marking a time when "Americans discovered the noble sentiments in the Declaration," and began to view it "not as a mere instrument of diplomacy but as the birthright of a nation, as a manifesto of human dignity and personal rights" (Bidwell).
Engraved in delicate cursive at the top left is Tyler's dedication: "To Thomas Jefferson, Patron of the Arts, the firm Supporter of American Independence, and the Rights of Man, this Charter of Freedom is, with the highest esteem, most Respectfully Inscribed by his much Obliged and very Humble Servant Benjamin Owen Tyler." In the bottom left corner is an engraved testimonial note signed by Richard Rush, Secretary of State, certifying the accuracy of the text and the original signatures: "I myself have examined the signatures... Those executed by Mr. Tyler are curiously exact imitations, so much so that it would be difficult if not impossible for the closest scrutiny to distinguish them."
Tyler adds a note in small characters in the bottom margin: "The publisher designed and executed the ornamental writing... and has also observed the same punctuation, and copied every Capital as in the original." Copies of the Tyler facsimile on paper were sold for five dollars, while copies on parchment cost seven dollars (a very few copies, evidently, were also printed on silk). Tyler brashly claimed to have received orders for 3,000 copies but it is doubtful that his copperplate could have produced so many impressions and Tyler's original subscription book (in the Albert Small Collection at the University of Virginia) records just over 1,000 names. (The first subscriber listed is Thomas Jefferson; most customers evidently purchased the less expensive form, printed on paper.)
For an account of the competition between Binns, Tyler and the printmaker Jonathan Trumbull, see John Bidwell, "American History in Image and Text," in Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, Vol. 98, part 2 (October 1988), no.2.