The original handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence, signed by representatives of the 13 original colonies in 1776, is kept at the National Archives in Washington, DC. Until 2015, it was thought to be the only such document to survive -- until American researchers stumbled upon a rare second parchment copy, called the Sussex Declaration, in the West Sussex Record Office in Chichester, England. The second copy was produced on a full sheet of parchment, measures about 24 by 30 inches (61 cm by 76 cm), and likely dates to the 1780s.
"When in the Course of human events..."
- Parchment was used for formal legal documents in the 18th century, and the large size of the Sussex Declaration identifies it as a ceremonial document. Thus, the newly-discovered document is much rarer and more distinctive than the many broadsides produced to help spread the news that the colonies were declaring independence from Great Britain.
- Probably made in New York City or Philadelphia, the document may have belonged to the Duke of Richmond, known as the “Radical Duke” because of his support of the American Revolution.
- Unlike the National Archives copy, the Sussex Declaration’s signatures are in a different order and are not grouped by state. The recent discovery is also in much better condition than the original, which is severely faded and nearly illegible in places.