The Typesetting and Designs of the Declaration of Independence Broadsides

Date: 26 July 2023
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: UVA Special Collections
Lecturer: Craig Welsh - Associate Professor of Communications & Humanities, Penn State Harrisburg

As broadside copies of the Declaration of Independence dashed by horseback through the American colonies in 1776, printers hurriedly typeset and printed new versions. Mysteries surround the original (John) Dunlap Broadside, including a copy claimed to have been found behind a painting purchased for $4.00 at a flea market in the 1980s. Baltimore-based Mary Katharine Goddard deftly printed the lesser-known first copy of the document that included the names of all the signers. An early printing in Philadelphia was typeset in German with blackletter type. There were errors, varying approaches to layouts, ornamenting, and some peculiar typesetting decisions. The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts recently “found” an original copy of the (Ezekiel) Russell broadside in late 2022. And did Frederick Goff make a questionable type-related assertion in his 1976 book The John Dunlap Broadside: The First Printing of the Declaration of Independence? We’ll time travel to the cobblestone streets of colonial America to examine its most influential document as the 250th (Semiquincentennial) anniversary of its printing is celebrated in 2026.