First printing of Declaration of Independence on display at the Beinecke Library

The so-called Dunlap Broadside, one of the remaining first printings of the Declaration of Independence.
The so-called Dunlap Broadside, one of the remaining first printings of the Declaration of Independence.

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library will mark the 242nd anniversary of the nation’s founding with a special display of a major document of United States history from its collections.

All are welcome to visit and see one of the 26 known copies of the historic first printing of the Declaration of Independence. Often referred to as the Dunlap Broadside in honor of John Dunlap, who printed approximately 200 copies in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, the broadside was distributed throughout the 13 states to announce the establishment of the new nation.

The Dunlap Broadside will be on view in a temporary exhibition case on the library’s mezzanine from Thursday, June 28, through Wednesday, July 11. The Beinecke Library’s ground floor and mezzanine exhibition spaces are open to the public daily with no admission charge. 

In addition to the Dunlap Broadside, the library will also have on display in a temporary exhibition case some other essential documents of U.S history. These will be also be on view June 28-July 11. They are:

  • Frederick Douglass’ oration, delivered in Corinthian Hall, Rochester, July 5, 1852, published by request, Rochester: printed by Lee, Mann & Co., 1852; now remembered as “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?
  • Carte-de-visite images of Douglass from 1860, 1865, and 1875, from the Randolph Linsly Simpson African-American Collection
  • Life of William Grimes, the runaway slave,” written by himself, first printing, 1825, and second printing, 1855

A public reading of the Declaration of Independence and Douglass’ oration will be held on Thursday, July 5, at 4 p.m.

Visitors can also enjoy the building-wide summertime exhibition, “Text and Textile,” as well as materials on permanent exhibition at the Beinecke Library, including: the Gutenberg Bible, the first Western book printed from movable type, and John James Audubon’s “Birds of America,” on the mezzanine. On the ground floor are the 1742 Library of Yale College, the first books in the original Yale library, as well as a collection of incunabula, the earliest printed books in the West, from 1455 to ca. 1500. 

The Beinecke Library is located at 121 Wall St. The exhibition spaces are free and open to the public Monday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, noon-5 p.m.; and, Sunday, noon-4 p.m. The library will be closed on Wednesday, July 4, in observance of Independence Day.

Visitors are also encouraged to see other markers of U.S. history related to the Declaration of Independence located nearby the Beinecke Library.

Immediately north of the library, the Grove Street Cemetery, 227 Grove St. (at High Street), is the burial site of Roger Sherman, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence and one of the Committee of Five — led by Thomas Jefferson and including John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Robert Livingston — charged by the Second Continental Congress with drafting and presenting the Declaration of Independence. The first chartered burial ground in the United States, the cemetery is free and open to the public daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

A few blocks south of the Beinecke Library, the Yale University Art Gallery, 1111 Chapel St., holds numerous works of art related to the founding of the nation. Its collections include John Trumbull’s painting, “The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776,” a depiction of the Committee of Five presenting the document to John Hancock.  The gallery is free and open to the public Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

The full text of the Declaration of Independence can be found on the website of the National Archives.

More information about the Declaration of Independence and the Dunlap Broadside can be found in a story published online in the New Haven Register on July 1, 2017.

To read the full text of Douglass’ oration, visit the website of the University of Rochester’s Frederick Douglass Project.

An electronic edition of “Life of William Grimes” can be found at the Documenting the American South website at the University of North Carolina.

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Media Contact

Michael Morand: michael.morand@yale.edu , 203-432-3056