Apr 26, 2017 12:58 AM EDT
Harvard researcher Emily Sneff and professor Danielle Allen pored over a tiny folder last summer in a small town near England's southern shore. The interesting document was, apparently, an important piece of American history.
The three-foot long piece of parchment was a copy of the Declaration of Independence. This was the only parchment manuscript copy aside from the one in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
The Harvard researchers worked at the Declaration Resources Project, which is developing a database of every known version of the Declaration of Independence produced from 1776 to the 1820s. The document has been found in a small British town and has been deemed as "the Sussex Declaration."
ABC News reported that the Sussex Declaration is an American-made copy which may have been created in the mid-1780s for James Wilson, who is a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. The researchers believed that he may have used the document to influence debate around the convention on behalf of the federal Constitution.
Sneff, the Harvard researcher, is also the Research Manager for the project. She found the document years ago in an online archive catalog and reached out to the office that held it.
The Sussex Declaration is similar to the one in Washington. But, it is less worn which makes every single word more readable than the one in the faded version sitting in the Archives.
One significant difference between the two copies is that the signed names at the bottom of the Sussex Declaration are scrambled and not listed by state. Sneff noted that the list of names was intentionally scrambled in order to emphasize that it was signed by individuals and not as a community.
According to The Harvard Gazette, the researchers will continue to investigate how the parchment reached England. They are also working on a project in collaboration with the West Sussex Record Office, the British Library and the Library of Congress to perform hyper-spectral imaging on the parchment.
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