Surprise as Magna Carta to be sold in New York

  • 26 September 2007

One of the rarest and most important documents in existence, the Magna Carta, is to be auctioned by Sotheby’s in New York at the end of the year.

As one of only two versions outside England, the manuscript which sets out the basic principles of English law is expected to fetch more than £15 million.

Dating back to 1297, it is the only copy of the Magna Carta to remain in private hands. There are 17 versions of the manuscript; all but two are kept in British institutions.

The other version resides in Australia.

Head of medieval and earlier manuscripts at the British Library, Claire Breay commented: “Its significance was international because of the impact it had in other countries, and it has echoes in the American Bill of Rights as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“That’s why it still gets cited by lawyers and quoted by politicians.”

Vice chairman of Sotheby’s David Redden meanwhile described the charter drawn up by King John in 1215 as “mankind’s eternal quest for freedom”.

The manuscript will be auctioned in December.

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