Two Harvard University students found a rare second parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence in England. Emily Sneff and Danielle Allen managed to locate the rare document in a records office in Chichester, England. The first time there was any news of it's existence was in 2015 when Emily spotted an unusual listing from a catalogue for the West Sussex Record Office.
Emily and Danielle expected this copy of the Declaration of Independence to be like others they had found which were 19th Century copies of the signed parchment in the National Archives. They were shocked to realize it was something way more than that. Emily and Danielle analyzed different aspects of the Sussex version and within 20 months were able to come up with quite a bit of evidence.
They traveled to England in August of 2016 to examine the copy that had been found in England. The Declaration had fold marks, showing that it had been folded multiple times and also had bite marks on the side showing that rodents had bitten it.
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Despite those marks both women said that it was in tremendous shape and they were pleased that they were able to see it in person.
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A rare second parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence has been found — in England.
The discovery was made by Harvard University researchers Emily Sneff and Danielle Allen, according to a university news release published Friday. The pair located the rare document in a records office in Chichester, a city near England’s southern coast.
The first clue that the document existed came in 2015, when Sneff spotted an unusual listing from a catalogue for the West Sussex Record Office: “Manuscript copy, on parchment, of the Declaration in Congress of the thirteen United States of America.”
Sneff and Allen, who work with Harvard’s Declaration Resources Project, had been searching the catalogue for unrelated reasons. At the time, no one knew there was any other parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence besides the original one signed in 1776, kept at the National Archives in Washington.
“We had no reason to expect a document like this to exist at all,” Sneff told The Washington Post.
How did a historic document like this get to England?
The researchers do not know who actually made the copy or how the Sussex Declaration arrived in England. They do know that it was deposited at the West Sussex Records Office in 1956, along with a few hundred other documents, by a law firm that had handled the affairs of the Duke of Richmond.
And there the centuries-old document remained for nearly six more decades before Sneff and Allen rediscovered it.
Was it brought into the country with other documents that were brought in at the same time? Something like this could have easily became mixed up with other documents and misplaced.
There is no solid evidence to suggest how it found its way to England, nor if it was intentional or by mistake. What is your theory on how the parchment paper copy of the Declaration of Independence traveled overseas?