Speed Reads

a piece of history

A rare parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence has been discovered in England

Two Harvard researchers on Friday presented their discovery of a rare parchment manuscript of the Declaration of Independence discovered in a small town in southern England last year. "The Sussex Declaration," as the document has been dubbed, is believed to have been made in America in the 1780s. It is one of only two known parchment copies of the Declaration worldwide.

"I was just looking for copies of the Declaration of Independence in British archives," said researcher Emily Sneff, when she noticed a record office listing mentioned "parchment," suggesting a rare find. "I reached out to them a bit skeptically," Sneff recalled. "The description was a little vague, but once we saw an image and talked to a conservator we started to get excited."

The Sussex Declaration differs from the parchment copy at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., mainly in the order of the signers' names. In the Washington copy, the names are organized by state; in the Sussex copy, they are not. "The list of names was intentionally scrambled," Sneff suggested, "to drive home the point that the signers of the Declaration of Independence signed as individuals, as a community" rather than solely as representatives of states.