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The Declaration of Independence in Foreign Languages

In preparation for the upcoming Independence Day celebration tomorrow, we thought it might be interesting to show that there is also an international dimension to this national holiday. The Declaration of Independence is regarded as one of the milestone documents that shaped America, but it also had a major influence abroad.

After the Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, it was rapidly distributed in the United States and all over the world and translated into many languages. One of the first translations into German was published in Philadelphia on July 9, 1776, just four days after the signing, by the German printer Henrich Miller in his newspaper “Henrich Millers Pennsylvanischer Staatsbote“. Other nations took inspiration from the Declaration of Independence in drafting their own declarations, for example, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen from 1789 (Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen de 1789). Today, the Declaration of Independence is known worldwide and has been translated into many other languages. The Library of Congress and the Law Library hold several of these translations in their collections, some of which are pictured below.

Declaration of Independence in German translation. Included in: Staatsgesetze der dreyzehn vereinigten amerikanischen Staaten. 1785. /Photo by Jenny Gesley. //lccn.loc.gov/2016659409

Spine of the book “Staatsgesetze der dreyzehn vereinigten amerikanischen Staaten”. 1785./ Photo by Jenny Gesley. //lccn.loc.gov/2016659409.

Declaration of Independence in Russian Translation. Included in Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826. Deklarat︠s︡ii︠a︡ nezavisimosti ; Inaugurat︠s︡ionnye rechi / Tomas Dzhefferson ; perevod inaugurat︠s︡ionnykh recheĭ s angliĭskogo S.A. Nurgazievoĭ i V.V. Markova ; vstupitelʹnai︠a︡ statʹi︠a︡ i primechanii︠a︡ S.F. Udart︠s︡eva. 2004./ Photo by Jenny Gesley. //lccn.loc.gov/2005449041.

Original text of the Declaration of Independence with Czech translation on facing pages. Included in Ústava Spojených Států = The Constitution of the United States. Brno : Š. Ryšavý, 1995. //lccn.loc.gov/99177969

Original text of the Declaration of Independence with French translation on facing pages. Included in Becker, Carl L. (Carl Lotus), 1873-1945. La Déclaration d’indépendance, contribution à l’histoire des idées politiques [par] Carl Becker. [Traduit de l’américain par Marie-France Bertrand et Marvin Holdt.] 1967./ Photo by Jenny Gesley. //lccn.loc.gov/75380624.

One Comment

  1. Melissa Kotulskli
    October 26, 2017 at 7:02 am

    Thank you for providing this to the public. I have sought something similar for the U.S. Constitution since January.

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