Only two parchment manuscripts of the Declaration of Independence dating back to the 18th century are known in the world. One is held by the National Archives and displayed to the public in the National Archives Rotunda in Washington, DC. The other was recently discovered in Chichester, England, by two Harvard University historians, who recently spoke about their discovery at the National Archives in the public program, “Discovering the Sussex Declaration”:
Danielle Allen, Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and colleague Emily Sneff, Research Manager for the Declaration Resources Project identified a second parchment manuscript of the Declaration of Independence in Chichester, England. Allen and Sneff came across the “Sussex Declaration,” as it has come to be known, in August 2015, while conducting online research of the digitized records collection of the United Kingdom National Archives for Harvard’s Declaration Resource Project. This previously unknown manuscript, dating from the 1780s, is written in the hand of a single clerk.
The Declaration Resource Project set out to build a database of all known editions of the Declaration of Independence as an informative and educational resource about the Declaration. The original Declaration of Independence, also known as “The Matlack Declaration” scribed by Timothy Matlack, is preserved and displayed at the National Archives Rotunda.
Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler and Catherine Nicholson, former conservators at the National Archives, were consulted by Allen and Sneff and provided advice for the authentication of the Sussex Declaration. When the National Archives Rotunda in Washington, DC was renovated in 2001, Ritzenthaler and Nicholson had the opportunity to remove the Charters of Freedom (the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights) from their earlier encasements to perform examinations and conservation treatments. Their hands are the last to have touched the Declaration of Independence.
The Sussex Declaration is currently housed where it was discovered at the West Sussex Record Office in Chichester, England. Officials there are working to ensure its proper preservation and care now that they know the valuable item within their possession.
Read more about Sneff and Allen’s discovery and the Declaration Resource Project: https://www.archives.gov/news/topics/sussex-declaration