Four surviving Magna Carta originals together for the first time

In 2015, the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta will be brought together for the very first time, at London's British Library.

Magna Carta
One of the British Library’s two copies of the Magna Carta

Held in conjunction with Lincoln and Salisbury cathedrals, and supported by legal firm Linklaters, the three-day unification aims to mark the Magna Carta's 800th anniversary.

The British Library owns two original copies of the great charter, while Lincoln Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral each house a single example.

In 1215, King John issued the charter as a practical solution to a political crisis. The Magna Carta, which is written in Latin on parchment, states that the King, rather than residing above the law, is subject to it.

Ideas against arbitrary power contained in the document are enshrined in Britain's uncodified (unwritten) constitution.

"Magna Carta's clauses on social justice are as relevant today as they were 800 years ago and are at the heart of all we aspire to," the Very Reverend June Osborne, dean of Salisbury Cathedral, insists.

Claire Breay, curator of medieval and earlier manuscripts at the British Library, comments: "Magna Carta is the most popular item in the Library's Treasures gallery, and is venerated around the world as marking the starting point for government under the law.

"Bringing the four surviving manuscripts together for the first time will create a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for researchers and members of the public to see them in one place, and will be a fantastic start to a year of celebrations." 

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