A copy of the US Declaration of Independence accidentally discovered in a Scottish attic has just sold for more than $4.4 million.
The extraordinary artifact — printed in 1823 for original signer Charles Carroll of Maryland — was recently found by a rare-manuscripts specialist while she was sifting through items at a client’s ancestral home.
“I was looking through a pile of papers which had been brought down from the attic, amongst which was a folded-up vellum document,” said expert Cathy Marsden of the Lyon & Turnbull auction house in a video posted on the company’s website.
“And I looked at the document, and I unfolded it and thought, ‘Oh, this looks interesting,’ ’’ Mardsen said.
“And I suddenly thought this could be a really important thing. … I was thinking, yes, this document, which was found in an attic in this family home in Scotland and had been brought out as something curious and interesting, looks like it is really special.”
The parchment — auctioned off Thursday in Philadelphia — was actually just one of only a few dozen known remaining copies of the Declaration printed by master engraver William Stone at the behest of then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams in 1820.
Adams had ordered up more than 200 copies to give to surviving original signers and other dignitaries at the time.
This specific copy was one of two presented to Carroll, who then gave it to his Scottish-Canadian grandson-in-law John MacTavish. The other copy was donated to the Maryland Historical Society in 1844.
The sold copy was peddled at Freeman’s Auction House, not far from where the original Declaration was signed in Philadelphia, for a total of $4,420,000. The seller of the document chose to remain anonymous.
“The importance is not something I really recognized when I put it in my little car and drove away’’ from the home in Scotland, Mardsen acknowledged of the document.
“But it soon dawned on me how important this was to the American culture.’’