Rare engraved copy of Canterbury’s Magna Carta sold
- Credit: Archant
Tony Pratt of the Canterbury Auction Galleries discusses his Antique of the Month: one of only four copies of the original 1215 Magna Carta
There have been many exciting discoveries at our free Friday valuation mornings, but this is perhaps the most worthy in recent times of being highlighted here: a rare engraved facsimile of Canterbury’s Magna Carta of 1215, which fittingly, was purchased by Canterbury Cathedral Archives. It sold in our last sale for £3,400, the purchase financed by The Friends of The National Libraries, and The Friends of Canterbury Cathedral. We also helped by waiving our buyer’s premium. However, it’s the historical significance of this 18th-century engraving, not its monetary worth, that is important.
Only four copies of King John’s original 1215 Magna Carta survive. New research has shown conclusively that in the Middle Ages one of the two in the British Library was once kept at our city’s cathedral.
It was removed in the 1630s but is now re-designated as the Canterbury Magna Carta. Sadly, after being damaged in a fire in 1731, a restoration attempt in the 1830s rendered it unreadable.
Thankfully, in 1733, John Pine (1690-1756), a publisher and engraver to the King, was able to engrave a copy and it was one of the first strikings, printed on vellum, that appeared in our sale. Cressida Williams, Head of Archives and Library at Canterbury Cathedral, described it as “the best item in our collections to tell the Magna Carta story.”
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