Sunday, November 23, 2008

Book Review: "Declaring Independence"

If there's a Declaration of Independence buff on your holiday shopping list, you might consider a beautiful new book from the University of Virginia Press. Declaring Independence: The Origin and Influence of America's Founding Document (2008), features a selection of excellent full-color images from the Albert H. Small Declaration of Independence Collection at UVa's library, a quartet of essays by notable Declaration scholars, and biographical sketches of the signers.

Edited by Christian Y. Dupont and Peter S. Onuf (who wrote the introduction), the book includes a preface by David McCullough and a short epilogue by retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor. In the essays Pauline Maier and Robert M.S. McDonald examine the question of the Declaration's authorship, Robert G. Parkinson takes a close look at the bill of indictments against the King (the 'meat and potatoes' of the document), and David Armitage discusses the role of the Declaration in subsequent struggles for independence across the world.

The essays are mostly distillations of larger works (Maier's American Scripture; McDonald's articles "Thomas Jefferson's Changing Reputation as Author of the Declaration of Independence" and "Thomas Jefferson and Historical Self-Construction: The Earth Belongs to the Living?"; Armitage's The Declaration of Independence: A Global History), and they serve as decent short introductions to the relevant questions and (hopefully) as a gateway into those more detailed studies. The highlight of Declaring Independence is the gallery of images, which include some of the very rare printings of the Declaration from the period immediately following its adoption as well as some of the elaborate decorative engravings done during later periods.

Exquisitely designed and produced, this book should serve as a long-lasting catalogue of a fascinating collection of Declaration materials.

1 comment:

jgodsey said...

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