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Declaration of Independence
Articles of Confederation
Cultural Impact


A Multitude of Amendments, Alterations and Additions
Appendix B.

Scientific Study of the Physical Components of the

Dunlap Broadside

In May of 1975, Frederick R. Goff conducted a study of all the extant Declarations printed at Dunlap's shop on the evening of 4 July and the early morning of 5 July. Consequently, new information has been discovered to shed light on the first printing of the Declaration of Independence, more commonly referred to as the Dunlap Broadside. Goff examined all the broadsides both visually and scientifically using photography, beta-radiography, and the use of a Hinman collator. Seventeen of the twenty-one broadsides then known were assembled at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC for this study.

Through an examination of the imprint, Goff discovered that there were two distinct states of printing, not including the printer's proof copy that was found to be unique in punctuation and the insertion of the article a not found in the other broadsides. The printer's proof copy, of which half survives, is located in the collection of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Goff argues that whoever examined the printer's proof noticed the mistakes and directed that a correction be made. As a result, the broadsides printed on 4 and 5 July contain open spaces.

In the first state of printing, the "P" of Philadelphia is located directly beneath the comma following Charles Thomson's name. In subsequent copies the P is located beneath the n in Thomson's name.(1) During this examination, Goff observed that in the course of the printing process, the type pieces for eleven letters were damaged. As a result, Goff concluded that the order in which the extant documents were printed was represented by the earlier printing having fewer damaged type face letters.

Also, Goff noticed that in at least eleven copies the type was offset, the result of folding a document in half horizontally before the ink was dry. Both states of printing showed evidence of offsetting. Goff argues that this reflects the hectic nature of business at Dunlap's shop on 4 and 5 July.

Watermarks were identified on twelve of the seventeen copies. All the watermarks identified were of Dutch origin and Goff concluded the paper was probably imported from England. Goff noted that Dunlap used the best quality paper he had in his shop on Market Street. He also determined that the watermarks on the Dunlap broadside in the collection of Independence National Historical Park differed from all the others in the study.(2) The broadside at Independence contains a watermark subscribed "D & C BLAUW," and a crown and post horn within a shield with a fleur-de-lis pendant. According to Goff, the paper was manufactured by a distinguished family of papermakers. Dirk and Cornelis Blauw began papermaking in 1621 and their firm survived under many different names for 250 years.

All the broadsides examined contained horizontal chain lines. Chain lines, vertical or horizontal, are incidental to the papermaking process and appear on all types of laid paper. The number of chain lines varied from sixteen to nineteen on the broadsides examined. Goff ascertained that in no single copy were the chain lines parallel to the text, a detail that indicates the form may have been placed in the coffin of the press at an angle. Once again, he attributes this evidence to the urgency in Dunlap's shop on 4 and 5 July.

A similar scientific study for the printed versions of the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States has not been conducted.

Source: Goff, Frederick R. The John Dunlap Broadside: The First Printing of the Declaration of Independence. Washington: Library of Congress, 1976.


Last Modified: Fri, Jan 17 2003 07:08:48 am PDT

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