Edition of Magna Carta worth up to £10m discovered in a council’s archives

An early edition of Magna Carta has been found during a search of a council’s archives after it lay forgotten in a Victorian scrapbook for over a century.

Magna_Carta_(British_Library_Cotton_MS_Augustus_II.106)
One of only four surviving exemplifications of the 1215 text, Cotton MS. Augustus II. 106 (Credit: Wikipedia)

An early version of Magna Carta dating back to 1300 has been discovered in the files of the history department of Kent county council.

Coincidentally, this amazing historical find comes only months ahead of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the historical charter that established the principle of the rule of law in Runnymede in 1215.

The 1300 Magna Carta was issued by Edward I and was apparently the last to be drawn up, and this new discovery brings the number of surviving originals dating from 1300 to seven.

This early edition was found in a Victorian scrapbook during a search of the council’s archives, kept in Maidstone but belonging to the town of Sandwich. There are only 24 editions of  Magna Carta in known existence around the world and this exciting new discovery certainly gives hope that future copies may also turn up, as the very fact that Sandwich had its own fuels the theory that more were issued than previously thought.

The discovery came as Kent archivist Dr Mark Bateson was asked to search for another charter from the town of Sandwich. He found the town’s Charter of the Forest along with the long-forgotten Magna Carta edition. It was damaged, missing some text and its royal seal, but it could still be worth up to £10m according to Professor Nicholas Vincent, a specialist in medieval history from the University of East Anglia.

Professor Vincent, who asked Dr Bateson to search for the Charter of the Forest in December, went on to authenticate the Sandwich Magna Carta after it was found. Its high value comes from the fact that it was found with the Charter of the Forest, as the only other such pairing in the world is owned by Oriel College, Oxford.

The discovery of the Sandwich Magna Carta coincides with four 1215 versions of the charter being brought together at the Houses of Parliament this week.

Paul Graeme, mayor of Sandwich Town Council, said owning the Charter of the Forest and Magna Carta was “an immense privilege”.

 

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