Seen side-by-side for the first time in history, the four surviving original copies of Magna Carta, King John's charters of medieval England, will be made viewable for free to 1,215 lucky ballot winners on the 800th anniversary of their creation.
The British Library, Lincoln Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral will unite the charters for three days in early 2015. A draw will take place to decide which entrants will get to see the manuscripts free of charge.
“We know from the times when Magna Carta has been exhibited abroad – most recently in the United States – just how far-reaching its influence has been,” says The Very Reverend Philip Buckler, the Dean of Lincoln.
“This unification event will be of national significance. For us, it will mark a pivotal point for our manuscript in the anniversary year before it returns to enter its new purpose-built home in Lincoln Castle.”
Inscribed on Latin parchment, Magna Carta will forever be considered a constitutional cornerstone, despite a third of the sacred text being dropped or rewritten within ten years and almost all of the clauses disappearing during the modern era.
The Library owns two of the copies, with the cathedrals holding one each.
“Magna Carta is the most popular item in the Library’s Treasures gallery,” says Claire Breay, the Lead Curator of Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts at the Library, calling the unification “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for researchers and the public.
“It is venerated around the world as marking the starting point for government under the law.
“This will be a fantastic start to a year of celebrations.”
- Read our Curator's Choice with Claire Breay on Magna Carta.