American, ca. 1816, brown ink on laid paper, a faithful representation of all 56 Declaration of Independence signers on signature panel, subsequently used as model for Tyler's popular broadside, this panel featured in Charles Hamilton, American Autographs, 9-1/4 x 17-1/2 in.; later wood frame, 13 x 21 in.
Note: Nineteenth century writing master Benjamin Owen Tyler used this signature sheet to produce his famous engraved print of the Declaration of Independence. It was such a faithful facsimile of each signature that it caused Richard Rush, Acting Secretary of State at the time, to declare "I have, myself, examined the signatures to each. Those executed by Mr. Tyler are curiously exact imitations; so much so that it would be difficult, if not impossible, of the closest scrutiny to distinguish them, were it not for the hand of time, from the originals."
The cruel "hand of time" was the very reason for Tyler's project from the start. With forty years worth of deterioration the original document had become fragile and signatures muted. This well executed maquette by Tyler would become the template for anyone who wished to reproduce the hand of any of these original 56 Declaration Signers.
The verso is inscribed in pencil: "BENJAMIN OWEN TYLER 1789-? made these signatures flawlessly from the original Declaration 1816/made first printing engraving of Declaration Independence 1818/these are the only signatures left/originals are no longer visible/this manuscript is from John Adams estate/Owen Tyler was relative." This inscription is signed "Mrs. Hoyt".
Interestingly, the broadside produced from this signature panel is featured across the inside cover and flyleaf of Charles Hamilton's book American Autographs. That broadside, of course, having the signatures arranged in a different order as found here. It is worth noting that an 1845 Declaration printing by Humphrey Phelps does show the names oriented identically to those on the maquette.
Hamilton, Charles. American Autographs: Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Revolutionary War Leaders, Presidents 1. (1983). - XI, 353 S. 1. (1983). - XI, 353 S. Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Pr, 1983.
Provenance: Hoyt family (inscribed verso)
laid and stabilized on card, minimal foxing near right edge, inkblots as made, creases, wear at periphery, toning commensurate with age