19 Dec 2007

1297 Magna Carta Sells for $21.3 Million at Sotheby’s

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A rare copy of the Magna Carta has been sold for $21.3m (£10.6m) in an auction at Sotheby’s in New York. The copy dating from 1297, one of only 17 still in existence, was bought by US businessman David Rubenstein.

The auction item had been owned by American billionaire Ross Perot’s Perot Foundation since 1984 and was on view at the National Archives in Washington.

The original Magna Carta was sealed by King John of England in 1215 and enshrined civil rights in English law.

Mr Rubenstein, co-founder of private equity firm The Carlyle Group, wants to put the document back on display at the National Archives.

He said: “I have always believed that the three most important documents were the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta.

“This document stands the test of time. There is nothing more important than what it represents.

“I am privileged to be the new owner, but I am only the temporary custodian.

“This is a gift to the American people. It is important to me that it stays in the United States.”

The auctioned copy, the only one in private hands, had been expected to fetch $20m when it went under the hammer.

The Magna Carta was not confirmed as English law until the version sealed by Edward I in 1297.

pdf version of Sotheby’s 56-page catalogue by Nicholas Vincent (Professor of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia in the UK), including introduction, Latin text and English translation, and discussion of related documents and the history of the sold copy.

Earlier posting -12/7

Hat tip to Dominique Poirier.


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