The Foundation of Our Declaration of Independence
Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Paper
This pivotal document laid the groundwork for our country and conveyed the ideals on which the United States was founded and the reasons for separation from Great Britain. Back in 1776, paper was a much different substrate than it is today. The Declaration of Independence was written on parchment, which was the paper of choice for ceremonial documents.
Let’s imagine, if you will, what would the Declaration of Independence look like if it was written in the 21st Century?
Starting in 1776
First, let’s back the time travel machine up to 1776 for our historical paper, ink and printing perspective. Parchment was actually made from animal skin, typically sheepskin. According to the Library of Congress, analysis by paper conservators has determined that the paper is most likely Dutch in origin. The size of the document is about 24 x 30 inches. Parchment was reserved for formal legal documents. It was inked with iron gall ink, which is made by mixing fermented oak marble galls with ferrous sulfate. Have you noticed the penmanship of the Declaration of Independence? Official documents were hand written by master penmen or engrossers. Fun fact: the script used for the Declaration is considered English roundhand script which is known today as Copperplate. And of course, the document was written by Thomas Jefferson.
Landing in 2017
If we had to write the Declaration today, how would we write it and what would we use? Would it be an email, text or Instagram post? Would the writers of today have someone hand letter a document on paper, use an advertising agency or write in code? What would the social component be? #YoIndependence? Would it be digitally printed or offset? WHAT FONT WOULD WE USE? Seriously, we could probably devote a whole series of blog posts to just font choices. The questions and options are endless compared to the resources our founding fathers had available to them.
Just like in 1776 and today, we don’t have a spec rep available to help us select our paper so I’ll take a stab at how I envision the Declaration of Independence, 2017 version. I would use Cougar paper, probably the Natural Smooth Cover, because of its warm shade and subtle texture. The exceptional opacity of Cougar paper is a must have requirement since we would probably include “The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 2017” on the back ala our 1776 version. Because let me tell you the translucency of parchment is a no-go in 2017. I’d partner with my local printer to print it offset and print thousands of copies to distribute. And the archival abilities? This document must stand the test of time. Cougar paper has that lasting quality that would be required of such a ceremonial manuscript. Lastly, the paper of patriotism has to be made in the USA and it is at our mill in Rothschild, Wisconsin.
Today, the Declaration of Independence is stored in special, bullet-proof encasement made of titanium with gold plated frames and filled with inert argon gas to prevent decomposition. The “paper” of 1776 is protected and the legacy of history is preserved. It’s kind of hard to imagine any other substrate beside paper that has that kind of power in our digital age.