8 June 2015
Members of the public are invited to view three of the Bodleian Libraries' original Magna Carta manuscripts which are on display this month to mark the 800th anniversary of this landmark document.
Visitors can learn more about the 'Great Charter of English Liberties' through Magna Carta 800, a special display at the Bodleian's newly refurbished Weston Library on Broad Street.
The Magna Carta was sealed by King John at Runnymede on 15 June 1215, following close and difficult negotiations with his baronial opposition. The charter established that the king was subject to the law and that were there significant limits to his power. Magna Carta was reissued on multiple occasions in the thirteenth century and the reissues of 1216, 1217, and 1225 possess significant revisions directly tailored to contemporary political realities and interests. The original copies of these reissues, produced by the royal chancery and bearing the ruler's seal, are known as engrossments. As the centuries have passed, the charter has been increasingly seen as the basis of many collective and individual rights and freedoms. Its relevance continues today.
The Bodleian Library holds four of the 17 surviving Magna Carta engrossments from before 1300. Two charters from 1217 and 1225 are currently on display in the Magna Carta 800 display, which also features a variety of other documents from the Library's collections that help explain the political background to Magna Carta. The display, curated by Dr Hugh Doherty, Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of East Anglia, is free of charge and runs until 28 June.
The 1217 'Gloucester Charter,' considered to be one of the Bodleian's finest engrossments, is also on display as part of Marks of Genius, the inaugural exhibition at the new Weston Library. This free exhibition features some of the greatest treasures from the Bodleian's rich collections, some of which have not been on public display before, and it runs until 20 September.