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Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence, on loan from The New York Public Library, and the Delaware copy of the US Bill of Rights, on loan from The US National Archives, two of the most iconic documents in American history, are in the UK for the first time and on display at the British Library from last Friday in the world’s largest exhibition about Magna Carta.

"Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy" unites over 200 exhibits, including iconic documents, such as two of the four surviving 1215 Magna Carta manuscripts, artworks, medieval manuscripts, Royal remains, weaponry and 800 year old garments, through to modern interpretations and satires of the document, to tell a revealing story of how Magna Carta has become a global symbol of freedom.

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Princeton University has announced the largest gift in its history: a trove of rare books valued at nearly $300 million, including a Gutenberg Bible, an original printing of the Declaration of Independence, all four of Shakespeare’s Folios and significant musical manuscripts written by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert and Wagner.

The Scheide Library, named for the family of the philanthropist and scholar William H. Scheide, has been housed in a special room in Princeton’s Firestone Library since 1959, when Mr. Scheide, who died last November at age 100, moved it there from his family home in Titusville, Pa. The bequest makes Princeton the permanent home of what the university’s president, Christopher L. Eisgruber, called “one of the greatest collections of rare books and manuscripts in the world today.”

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On January 26th, Keno Auctions of New York City sold a highly important and historically significant document entitled ‘Letter from the Twelve United States Colonies, by their delegates in Congress to the Inhabitants of Great Britain. After heated competition between several phone bidders in a packed salesroom, the gavel dropped at $912,500 (including Buyer’s Premium), well above its presale auction estimate of $100,000 to $400,000.

The winning bid of $912,500 was by private collector Brian Hendelson who, shortly after the auction, said "I am very excited about adding this amazing piece of history to my collection.  To be able to buy any original manuscript written relating to our independence is an extremely rare opportunity. To have the opportunity to own the original draft of the final plea to Great Britain is even more extraordinary. The only thing I can compare this to would be to own the original draft of the Declaration of Independence”. The price is the highest for any lot sold at auction during Americana Week 2014 in New York.

This document was long thought to be lost, but in July 2013 archivist Emilie Gruchow discovered it in the attic of the Morris-Jumel Mansion inside a folder of colonial doctor’s bills tucked away in a drawer. The document, penned by Robert R. Livingston, was a final plea for peace by the Continental Congress to the people of Great Britain to avoid the Revolutionary War. It was also a prelude to the Declaration of Independence, which Livingston helped draft with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin less than a year later. This working draft fundamentally changes our understanding of the final document which was printed in July 1775 and is complete with fascinating edits, including entire paragraphs crossed out and rewritten in the margins.  Scholar Michael Hattem of Yale University stated, the document is “…the missing piece from the culminating moments in which the colonists began to think of themselves not as British subjects, but as American citizens.”

Leigh Keno, President of Keno Auctions, said, “I am elated that the manuscript did so well.  All of the proceeds benefit one of the finest house museums in New York City.” Carol Ward, President of The Morris-Jumel Mansion, said after the sale, “I am still in a state of shock. It was so beyond our expectations. This auction quadruples the size of our endowment and ensures that the mansion can serve the public for generations to come.”

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Tuesday, 10 September 2013 19:03

Important Historical Works go on View at the Morgan

The Morgan Library & Museum in New York is currently presenting a selection of exceptional documents from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, one of the country’s leading collections of Americana. Reflections on a Nation features documents from the Revolutionary, early national, antebellum, and Civil War periods that represent an array of transformative moments that took place throughout the history of the United States.

Highlights from the exhibition include the only surviving copy of a 1776 edition of the Declaration of Independence printed in the South, a first edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a letter written by George Washington to secretary of war Henry Knox, and a letter written by Frederick Douglass to Mary Todd Lincoln. In it, Douglass thanked the president’s widow for giving him her husband’s walking stick, which he said was an indication of Lincoln’s “humane interest [in the] welfare of my whole race.”

Reflections on a Nation will be on view at the Morgan Library & Museum through January 12, 2014.

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