View a Rare Copy of United States Declaration of Independence… in London

American schoolchildren always learn of the United States Declaration of Independence, printed July 4, 1776. They are also told that a copy (not the original) is on view at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C.

The same schoolchildren may or may not be told that 200 copies were printed on July 4, 1776. What they usually are not told is that at least 26 copies are known to still exist. What fascinates me is that three of those copies are held in one place: The National Archives in Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England.

Yes, The National Archives of Great Britain has more original 1776 copies than does the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

In 1776, one copy was officially entered into the Congressional Journal and the additional copies were distributed, some by horseback, throughout the colonies to be read aloud to colonists and the militia. In addition, one copy was sent to King George III. I guess the Colonials felt they should notify the King that his subjects in the 13 North American colonies were rebelling.

Two other copies came from senior officers of the British Army and Navy who were commanding troops in North America at the time. It isn’t clear if the documents were sent directly to the officers or if they obtained the copies from captured documents.

I saw the documents in Kew (a neighborhood of London) on a trip I made a few years ago. They certainly looked the same as the copy I had seen at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. a few years earlier!

You can read more in Wikipedia at as well as in an article in The Telegraph at


Dick – A manuscript copy can also be seen in the UK – at Chichester in Sussex. See this BBC post


    A “manuscript copy” is handwritten, not one of the original 200 copies PRINTED July 4, 1776. The manuscript copies were written by hand possibly on the same date, July 4, or perhaps at a later date when someone needed an extra copy or two. The manuscript copies also do not look like the 200 original copies that were printed.

    Obviously, the words are the same but the handwriting is different. Take a look at the top of the page in the photo above in my article and you will see that then compare it to the photo of the top of the page in the article you referenced. They are quite different.

    There were many more copies made later. For instance, see the article and the photographs at that shows an 1823 facsimile made by a printer, William Stone. Stone probably made many copies.

    Wikipedia points out there were several versions: “After ratifying the text on July 4, Congress issued the Declaration of Independence in several forms. It was initially published as the printed Dunlap broadside that was widely distributed and read to the public. The source copy used for this printing has been lost and may have been a copy in Thomas Jefferson’s hand.[4] Jefferson’s original draft is preserved at the Library of Congress, complete with changes made by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, as well as Jefferson’s notes of changes made by Congress. The best-known version of the Declaration is a signed copy that is displayed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and which is popularly regarded as the official document. This engrossed copy was ordered by Congress on July 19 and signed primarily on August 2.”

    However, the 200 printed copies are normally considered to the only official copies. They are also called the “The Dunlap Copies” as they were typeset and printed in an all-night effort by the Continental Congress’ official printer, John Dunlap.

    You can read a lot more about the various copies made and their differences at:


Handwritten copy does exist and it’s not in London – it’s in Chichester in what is now West Sussex County .


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