Now on View at the Library of Congress, One of the Four Surviving Copies of the Magna Carta

Via the Washington Post: A yellowing piece of parchment covered in Latin, the Magna Carta now on view at the Library of Congress is as charming as a tax form. Hey, no one ever said cornerstones of constitutional law and civil liberty had to be pretty.

Magna Carta (experts drop the preceding “the”) got off to a rough start. When King John signed the “Great Charter” in 1215, on a field near London, he had no intention of appeasing its authors, barons who chafed at too-high taxes. But because they’d captured London, the king had no choice, says Nathan Dorn, curator of “Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor,” a new exhibit at the Library of Congress.

The barons made at least 41 copies and sent them to every county in England. The document on view is one of four surviving copies; the original is lost.

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