Holt Printing of Declaration of Independence Fetches Record Price at Auction

  • Copy of the Declaration of Independence, printed by John Holt, July 9, 1776.

    Copy of the Declaration of Independence, printed by John Holt, July 9, 1776.

    Blanchard's Auction Service

One of five known 1776 copies of the Declaration of Independence printed in New York by John Holt sold for a record price to a California collector at auction on Saturday.

Blanchard's in Potsdam, New York, sold the newly-discovered document for $1.5 million, setting a world record for any New York printing of the Declaration, and far surpassing the presale estimate of $500,000-$1 million.

The anonymous consignor, whose family passed down Col. David Mulford's copy of the declaration for 241 years, also offered up 70 rare documents from the Mulford, Gardiner and Buell families, including Revolutionary broadsides and manuscripts, documenting the history of East Hampton, Long Island, the American Revolution, and slavery in New York, from 1667-1815.

The second lot of documents, estimated to bring $25,000 to $50,000, catapulted to $290,000, and the Watertown Daily Times reports that both lots went to Holly M. Kinyon of California, who was a floor bidder.

“My great-grandmother’s name was Witherspoon, and our Witherspoon lineage is direct to John Witherspoon, who signed” the Declaration, Ms. Kinyon said to the Daily Times. “One of the more profound experiences I’ve ever had was when I saw (the Declaration) in D.C. as a younger woman — it’s difficult to explain how important this is to me, personally.”

Cambridge, Mass., historian Keith Arbour, who authenticated the documents, spoke to the Watertown Daily Times, saying, “I want to call your attention to just one phrase in the Declaration of Independence.”

Arbour continued, “‘When in the course of human events.’... And what’s remarkable about this collection is we have all the human events, not that some anonymous person underwent, but the human events that the people that handled that Declaration of Independence underwent.”

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