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History and Herstory

Second Handwritten Copy of the Declaration of Independence Discovered in England

Harvard researchers have discovered a parchment manuscript of the Declaration of Independence at a small archive office in the United Kingdom. Only the second parchment copy known to exist, it contains several features that mark it as distinct from the original.

In August 2015, Emily Sneff, a researcher with the Declaration Resources Project, was parsing through a database of every known example of the Declaration of Independence when an item appeared bearing the description: “Manuscript copy, on parchment, of the Declaration in Congress of the thirteen United States of America.” Sneff didn’t think much about it at the time, figuring it was probably a cataloguing error and that it was likely one of many copies made of the Declaration during the 19th Century. Nonetheless, she contacted the West Sussex Record office in the UK, where the manuscript was kept, just to make sure. When she received a disc with photos of the document, Sneff realized it was no ordinary copy, so she recruited her colleague Danielle Allen to take a closer look.

Nearly two years later, the team has concluded that the document—now known as the Sussex Declaration—is an authentic copy of the Declaration of Independence handwritten on parchment at some point during the 1780s. The only other parchment version is the Matlack Declaration, which is kept at the National Archives. Other handwritten copies of the Declaration exist, but in those versions the text was written out on letter-sized paper for private circulation. These findings are set to appear in an upcoming edition of Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America.

The newly discovered manuscript is the same size as the original, 24″ x 30″, but it’s oriented horizontally rather than vertically. The list of signatories is in an alternate order—the name John Hancock isn’t listed first. Weirdly, several names are misspelled. There’s also a blotch at the top that looks like some kind erasure. The text contains very little punctuation, and the handwriting style isn’t one the researchers have seen before. Other interesting features include marginal ruling, decorative penwork around the titling, evidence of nail holes, and justified, round hand script…

Israel pauses to remember Holocaust victims

Space Ninja!!!

Record-setting astronaut thrilled with bonus time in space

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – The world’s most experienced spacewoman said she’s thrilled to get an extra three months off the planet.

The commander of the International Space Station, Peggy Whitson, told The Associated Press that five months into her mission, she’s not bored yet – “not even close.” She misses cooking, though, and a diverse menu. 

Whitson learned there was a chance her mission would last until September, instead of the originally planned June, the day before she rocketed away late last year. That’s because an empty seat will be available on a Russian Soyuz capsule for her return. She’ll now spend close to 10 months in space, keeping up with all the science experiments.

She said it was an easy decision to make, once NASA and the Russian Space Agency firmed up the plans earlier this month. She and her husband of almost 28 years, Clarence Sams, a biochemist at Johnson Space Center in Houston, decided on “a flexible plan of happiness,” either way.

The biggest challenge of staying up so long, she said, is more mental. While phone and video communication is great, there’s nothing like giving family and friends a hug, she told the AP.


The 57-year-old biochemist – the oldest woman to fly in space – has set a U.S. record for most accumulated time in space.
She surpassed astronaut Jeffrey Williams’ 534 days in space. She also has performed eight spacewalks, more than any other woman. A ninth may be in the offing…


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