The New York Public Library To Display Rare Copy of The Declaration of Independence in Thomas Jefferson’s Hand

Free Independence Day display will be on view for two days only, July 1 and July 2, at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue

Media Contact: Angela Montefinise,

Images of the Library's "fair copy" of The Declaration of Independence available here

JUNE 27, 2019—In celebration of Independence Day, one of The New York Public Library’s greatest treasures—a copy of the Declaration of Independence written in Thomas Jefferson’s hand—will be on display for two days only on July 1 and 2.

The document will be on display in the Library’s Gottesman Hall on the first floor of the iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. The public will be able to view the Declaration of Independence on Monday, July 1 from 10 AM to 5 PM and Tuesday, July 2 from 10 AM to 7 PM. The exhibition is free; please note food, drink, and backpacks are not permitted in the gallery. 

Following this limited viewing, the Declaration will next be displayed in the Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures, a permanent exhibition scheduled to open in November 2020. The Declaration of Independence will be featured alongside over 100 other items from the Library’s extensive research collections, including other notable pieces of Americana such as the original Bill of Rights, George Washington’s handwritten farewell address, and a letter from Christopher Columbus to King Ferdinand documenting his discovery of America.

The Library acquired Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten Declaration of Independence in 1896, when John S. Kennedy—a trustee of The New York Public Library—donated it along with other items he purchased from Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, a noted surgeon and collector of Americana. The Declaration is now held in the Library’s renowned Manuscripts and Archives Division.

The Declaration of Independence was completed on July 1, but before it was ratified on July 4, several changes were made to the text, including the removal of Jefferson’s lengthy condemnation of the slave trade, an excision intended to appease delegates from Georgia and South Carolina. In the days after July 4, a distressed Jefferson wrote out several fair copies of his original text and sent them to five or six friends. The Library’s copy is one of the four Jefferson “fair copies” that have survived intact.

Some facts about the Library’s manuscript copy of the Declaration of Independence include:

  • The document is a handwritten copy by Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration.

  • In the Library’s copy, Jefferson has underlined the words and passages that were excised from the final text.

  • It has been suggested, although never proved, that the Library’s copy is the one Jefferson sent to his former law professor and mentor, George Wythe.

  • The Library’s copy of the Declaration is also sometimes referred to as the “Cassius Lee Copy,” since its ownership has been traced back to Cassius F. Lee of Alexandria, Virginia.

  • The document consists of handmade laid paper written on both sides; it measures 12 5/8 inches high by 7 7/8 inches wide. The manuscript is written in iron gall ink.

Support for The New York Public Library’s Exhibitions Program has been provided by Celeste Bartos, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos Exhibitions Fund, and Jonathan Altman.

About The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming, and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library serves nearly 17 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at