Thursday, July 03, 2014

A Period Is Questioned in the Declaration of Independence

Pursuit of Punctuation: An excerpt from the National Archives’ official transcript of the Declaration of Independence. A scholar is arguing that the period after “the pursuit of happiness” — shown above in an 1823 engraving — does not appear on the 1776 parchment original. Credit National Archives
If Only Thomas Jefferson Could Settle the Issue

By JENNIFER SCHUESSLER, NYT, JULY 2, 2014

Every Fourth of July, some Americans sit down to read the Declaration of Independence, reacquainting themselves with the nation’s founding charter exactly as it was signed by the Second Continental Congress in 1776.

Or almost exactly? A scholar is now saying that the official transcript of the document produced by the National Archives and Records Administration contains a significant error — smack in the middle of the sentence beginning “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” no less.

The error, according to Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., concerns a period that appears right after the phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the transcript, but almost certainly not, she maintains, on the badly faded parchment original.

That errant spot of ink, she believes, makes a difference, contributing to what she calls a “routine but serious misunderstanding” of the document.

(More here.)

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