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US Declaration print found at archives

A rare and valuable copy of the US Declaration of Independence has been discovered in the National Archives.

An American antiquarian bookseller carrying out research at the archives in Richmond, Surrey, stumbled upon the document among some files. It is believed to be one of only 200 printed.

Dating back to 4 July 1776, the manuscript is known as a "Dunlap", after the printer whose name appears at the bottom. Only 26 such prints are known to still exist. The last discovery of a Dunlap was at a flea market in 1989. It sold at auction for $8.1m (£5m).

The manuscript was hidden among correspondence from American colonists that the British had intercepted in the 18th century. The archives is now known to hold three copies but said it would not be selling the print.

"We will protect and preserve this copy," a spokeswoman said.

"The Americans are very excited by it. We do often loan out our key documents and I'm sure if an American institution wanted to borrow it, we would consider lending it to them."

Edward Hampshire, a diplomatic and colonial specialist at the archives, said: "This is an incredibly exciting find... uncovering a new document nearly 250 years [after they were printed] is extremely rare, especially one in such good condition."

The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress which announced that 13 American colonies were no longer a part of the British Empire.

John Dunlap's prints were delivered to the founders on the morning of 5 July 1776. One copy was entered into the Congressional Journal. Others were distributed throughout the colonies.