The British Library will bring together the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta for the first time in February as Britain celebrates the 800-year anniversary of the famous constitutional charter.
Two copies of the document — seen as a precursor for modern constitutions and human rights laws — come from the library’s archive and the others are held in Lincoln Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral.
The jealously-guarded parchments will only be in the one place for public viewing on a single day, February 3, before the biggest-ever exhibition about the document and its interpretation through the centuries opens at the library in March.
The library, which will have only its two copies for viewing during the show, will hand out 1,215 tickets by ballot to see the four documents — the number picked to evoke the year 1215 when the charter was drawn up.
The Magna Carta was issued by King John of England to resolve a political crisis with rebel barons by agreeing to curbs on his powers such as agreeing that the king should be subject to the law and granting all “free men” the right to a fair trial.
It was originally a verbal agreement by the king that was transcribed and distributed across the kingdom.
Some of its core principles are echoed in the United States Bill of Rights of 1791 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948.