Earliest edition of US Declaration of Independence to go on sale | US News

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One of the earliest contemporary broadside editions of the Declaration of Independence is scheduled for sale later this year at an auction held by the private library of William S. Reese – the most prominent antiquarian bookseller of his generation.

The “Bill” Reese collection, including printed works, historical prints, art and color plate books, will be among the highest-valued Americana print sales in over 50 years, Christie’s said, giving it a “conservative” pre-sale estimate of $12-18 million .

The edition of the Declaration of Independence is probably the first edition printed in New England and corresponds almost exactly to the typeface used for the July 16, 1776 edition of the American Gazette.

Only six specimens survive, four of which are housed in institutions including Georgetown University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Peabody Essex Museum. It is estimated to sell for between $1 million and $1.5 million.

Christina Geirger, director of books and manuscripts at Christie’s New York, said that visiting Reese’s private library for the first time was “one of the most exciting experiences of my life.”

She added, “The books and artwork so clearly embody Bill’s passion for history, which is evident in both written and visual culture. The library was a special place of refuge and adventure, intellectual rigor and humor, grandeur and accessibility—all these elements exquisitely balanced with exceptional taste.”

William Reese collection on site. Christina Geirger, director of books and manuscripts at Christie’s New York, said that seeing Reese’s private library for the first time was “one of the most exciting experiences of my life.” Photo: Christies

Born in 1955, Reese was a seminal figure in American antiquarian books with a keen interest in natural history, government and politics, travel and literature. He founded the eponymous William Reese Company in New Haven, Connecticut in 1979 and over the next 40 years the company became a leader in the Americana market.

The antiquarian bookshop was located next to the Yale University campus and housed more than 18,000 items. Reese also worked closely with Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library to create its Americana collections. In 1998 he founded the Reese Fellowship in the Print Culture of the Americas, which has offered research grants to more than 150 scholars.

Other auction highlights include a copy of Paul Revere’s 1770 engraving of the Boston Massacre ($250,000-$300,000), a first edition of John Smith’s 1624 General History of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles ($300,000 to $500,000), and rare editions by John James Audubon and Herman Melville.

A series of themed live and online auctions will take place in New York beginning May 25, and highlights from the collection will be presented to the public in an exhibition that opened Thursday and runs through January 28, which is the first time any part of the current collection has been on public display for over 30 years.

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