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The BBC's Miles Ward
"The new owners intend to make a travelling exhibition of the document"
 real 28k

Friday, 30 June, 2000, 21:54 GMT 22:54 UK
Declaration auction breaks net record
Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson wrote the declaration in 1776
A rare first printing of the US Declaration of Independence has fetched $8.14m in an online auction, breaking the record for any sale on the internet.

Two anonymous bidders vied throughout the day-long auction, lodging a total of 29 bids on Sotheby's web site, a spokeswoman said.

The new owners were later identified as a television producer and an internet entrepreneur.

The price they paid is the highest ever for a copy of the historic document.


The copy was found in an old frame bought at a flea market
The auction lasted all day
They say they intend to make a travelling exhibition of the declaration to "entertain, inspire and educate" people about how the founding fathers' vision of freedom and self-government speaks to us today.

Some 500 copies of the first official printing of the Declaration of Independence are believed to have been produced on 4 July, 1776, when the Continental Congress in Philadelphia made its official announcement of independence .

Of those, just 25 are known to survive today - 21 belong to institutions, the other four are in private hands.

A bit of history

The declaration - originally drafted by hand on parchment by Thomas Jefferson, later third US president - was distributed throughout the colonies to spread the news of independence from Britain.

It was found 11 years ago concealed in the backing of a torn picture bought for $4 at a Pennsylvania flea market.

TV producer Norman Lear
TV producer Norman Lear admires his purchase
It was first sold by Sotheby's in 1991 for $2.42m, hitherto the record for copies of the document.

"We're elated," said David Redden, Sotheby's vice-chairman and head of its books and manuscripts division.

Mr Redden said he had served as auctioneer when the document first sold in 1991, and "this time I handed over my gavel to the internet".

"Thinking back to 1991, it would have been considered science fiction that the next time this document sold it would have been electronically, digitally, without a human auctioneer," he said.

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