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Release Notes to
U.S. Founding Documents, From Photos of Originals
Version 2.7

By Mike Kaarhus

Nov. 1 2010. Links updated Nov. 22, 2021. UNITED STATES.


I am making text/html replicas of original Founding Documents.  All the original documents I copied are printed (not handwritten), except for Articles of Amendment 11 through 15.  The pictures I use for my replica of the Constitution are of one of the printed versions that the State of Rhode-Island sent to East Greenwich, Rhode-Island.  It uses less capitalization, and slightly different spelling, punctuation, spacing, and hyphenation than the original handwritten version.  The Senate version of the Founding Documents does not cite the original documents it is made from.  I am finding, however, that the grammatical detail of the Senate version’s Constitution matches that in photos of the original handwritten Constitution at   So my version, if done correctly, should vary from the Senate version in the same grammatical details in which the original printed version I use varies from the original handwritten version the Senate uses.  Despite these grammatical variations, I have found no substantive variations (nothing altering the meaning) between the two originals.

The Senate version to which I refer is Senate Document 109-17, approved by Senate Concurrent Resolution 108 (2006), and printed by the GPO.  I edited a copy of it to make my version.  It took me a long time to realize that the variations between the printed originals I selected and the Senate version mostly result from the fact that the Senate version starts with different originals.

In general, to find photos of the Founding Documents at the Library of Congress site, start here:

Founding Docs, Library of Congress

For the original Constitution, I use photos of one of 25 original prints of the U.S. Constitution sent to East-Greenwich, Rhode-Island.  The originals were printed in Oct. of 1787 by John Carter of Providence.  The photos are at the Library of Congress:

Printed 1787 Constitution, Pages 1 and 2

For the original printed Bill of Rights (the first 12 proposed Amendments), I use this photo (also at the Library of Congress):

The Bill of Rights printed by Bennett Wheeler, RI, Oct 1789

For Articles of Amendment 11-27 I used photos at (some of which are of handwritten docs, as I could not find printed ones).  I can no longer (as of Oct. 17, 2018) find these originals at

For an original printed Declaration of Independence, I use this photo (from the Library of Congress):

The Declaration of Independence printed by John Dunlap, Philadelphia

The only corruption I find in the Senate version is its retroactive replacement of the original ordinals with Roman numerals (explained below) for the numbering of the first 12 Amendments.

As was conventional in the 18th century, the writers of our Founding Documents used an f-like character called the “long s” in lieu of s’s that precede a vowel.  They also connected c and t whenever t followed c within a word.  I make no attempt to replicate these obsolete constructs.

The original printed documents contain two different sizes of capitals, which I have not yet replicated; I use just one size.  I do not replicate the original line lengths or columns.  I use no line breaks inside paragraphs (with some exceptions), and I use only one column, which I do not justify.  Therefore, I do not (with some exceptions) replicate the original columns, justification, or end-of-line hyphenations.

To improve readability, I generally (but not always) insert a blank line between each paragraph.  The writers and printers of the original documents generally avoided blank lines (probably to keep the documents small).  In some cases, they even dispensed with line breaks, and/or printed on both sides.

In some places, the original Constitution and Bill of Rights were later amended or superseded.  To warn the reader of these parts, I tag the beginning of the amended part with [!], and the end of it with [Amended by ...] or [Superseded by ...].  My tags are a bit jarring, but make the amended and superseded parts easily searchable and distinguishable from other notes in square brackets, and from the original text.  Whatever appears in square brackets in my restoration (even if inserted in the text) is a present-day note, not part of the original documents.  All bracketed notes are a different color than the original text.

I have also recently discovered that mine is not the only text/html version of original printed Founding Documents.  You can find other text/html versions if you look for them at the Library of Congress.  I have not yet compared them to mine, or studied them.  But it would have made my work easier if I had known of them earlier.

Perhaps people will find errors or omissions in my work.  If you find any, email me and tell me what they are.


• I retain the original hyphenation of words not hyphenated today (such as Vice-President and New-Hampshire).  It is not my intention to translate the original into today’s idioms.  Rather, (as long as they do not make the reading difficult) I try to restore the original idioms.

• My indentations and spacings are the same as the original printed versions (2 space indents, 2 spaces between sentences, 1 space between each letter of ARTICLE headings).  For uniformity, I extend this convention to the more recent Articles of Amendment, even though the more recent ones do not use it.

• By carefully comparing pages 1 and 2 of the Constitution sent to East-Greenwich, I found that they were printed on two sides of the same piece of paper.  The pics below are links to higher resolution slices showing the top of Page 2, then the top of Page 2 rotated 180 degrees horizontally, and then the top of Page 1.  In the higher-res photos, you can tell by the tears, frays, and irregularities along the edges of the paper (and by the stamp) that it is just one piece of paper:

[E-G Constitution Page 2 top]
[E-G Constitution Page 2 top backwards]

Click for high res.


• The capitalization in the original 12 Articles proposing Amendments to the Constitution varies depending on which photo one examines.  In my version, the caps match the Rhode-Island copy, printed by Bennett Wheeler in Oct. of 1789.

• I have considered whether to call the Articles of Amendment Amendments or Articles or Articles of Amendment.  In the original Bill of Rights, the original writers used Article, not Amendment.  With the exception of Amendment the Seventeenth, the writers of all the Articles of Amendment refer to them in the text as "this article", or "Article the nth", or they use a form saying "Article __".  I like that verbiage, since it makes sense to amend something containing Articles (such as the Constitution) with statements called Articles.  At the same time, however, ARTICLE V of the Constitution refers to Articles of Amendment as "amendments".  So I think it’s OK to call them Articles or Amendments or Articles of Amendment.  When referring to them here, I use the word Article.

• The original writers did not (as the Senate version suggests) use Roman numerals to number the Articles in original Bill of Rights.  In both the handwritten and the printed originals, they used ordinals: Article the First, Article the Second, etc.  I therefore also use ordinals.  The use of Roman numerals began with Article the Thirteenth, and continued through the Sixteenth.  After that, the numbering of Articles was neglected entirely (at least in the documents I examined).  Apparently, the later writers assumed that someone else, in some other government office would assign numbers to them.  It seems that the original writers were more self-reliant (and more numerate) than were the more recent amenders.  The Founder’s idiom (Article the nth) may be archaic now, but at least it is numerate.  The Senate version is also numerate, but not authentic.  I wish to be both numerate and authentic.  So I use Article the nth for all the Articles of Amendment that did not actually have Roman numerals.  And where the original writers provided no number, I place my ordinal in square brackets.

• The Senate version does not have Henry Ward’s witness of authenticity ("A true Copy of the Original, duly examined: Witness, HENRY WARD, Secretary") at the end of the first Bill of Rights.  I include it.  I examined a photo of the copy that went to "Rhode-Ifland and Providence-Plantations".  Perhaps for the Senate version, they examined a copy having no witness of authenticity.

• In Articles of Amendment 18 through 26 the original convention was to type the first section as "SECTION 1", and subsequent sections as "SEC. n." (where n is the next integer).  I restore that convention here.


01 Nov 2010: Version 2.7
30 Apr 2010: Version 2.6
14 Apr 2010: Version 2.5
13 Apr 2010: Version 2.4
01 Apr 2010: Version 2.3
31 Mar 2010: Version 2.2
18 Mar 2010: Version 2.1
11 Mar 2010: Version 2.0

Version 2.7 adds in-page links to major sections. Shortens Intro.

Version 2.6:

• Discovered that Article I, Sect. 10 is three paragrahps in the original handwritten version (and in the present Senate version).  In the original printed version (and in my version), it is only 2 paragraphs.  So I no longer count the Senate’s paragraph break a corruption.  Instead, I added a note at the place in my version where the Senate version breaks the paragraph.  In the handwritten version, each sentence is a separate paragraph.  In the printed version, the first sentence of Sect. 10 is the first paragraph, and the second and third sentences are the second paragraph.

• Also discovered that the erroneous combination of paragraphs 4 and 5 in Article I, Sect. 2 was corrected by the GPO sometime between 2003 and 2006.  So I no longer count that as a corruption.

Version 2.5 rewrites Release Notes and Intro to reflect the fact that I found an original document at the LOC that I could not previously find.

Version 2.4 rewrites Intro and Release Notes, provides links to images.

Version 2.3 cuts the Release Notes to a separate page, leaving only the Intro with the Founding Documents.

Version 2.2:

• Restores an original paragraph break to make Article I, Sect. 2 five paragraphs instead of four.  Original fifth paragraph begins: "  The House of Representatives shall choose ..."  The digital version of the GPO’s 1998 and 2003 (Senate Document 105-11 and House Document 108-96) plain text founding documents combined the fourth and fifth paragraphs.  I have not found this error in subsequent GPO versions.

• Replicates printed version’s Article I, Sect. 10 as having only two paragraphs.  In the printed version, the first sentence of Sect. 10 is the first paragraph, and the second and third sentences are the second paragraph.

• Changes the color of the red letter version’s bracketed notes from red to gold.  Now all notes are a different color in both versions.

• Starts Replications Log.

Previous Versions:

• In the last resolution following the Constitution there appears in the photo of the printed version a "Town=Clerks" (or something like that), which is how I rendered it, since the "=" is an archaic type of hyphen.

Done with Release Notes?
Go to the Founding Documents.

Intro and notes Copyright © 2010 Michael Kaarhus
All rights reserved

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