The Magna Carta has been called ‘a sacred text, the nearest approach to an irrepealable "fundamental statute" that England has ever had’ (Pollock and Maitland, History of English Law), and is the most celebrated legal document in the English-speaking world. This engraving was the work of John Pine (1690-1756), publisher, print- and map-seller, as well as Bluemantle Pursuivant at the College of Arms, and Engraver to the King's Signet and Stamp Office.
The 1215 issue of Magna Carta now in the British Library (BL Ci), from which the engraving is taken, was badly damaged by fire after the engraving was made; thus the Pine engraving is highly significant. Only four 1215 documents of Magna Carta survive in the country: two at the British Library (including Ci), one at Salisbury Cathedral and one at Lincoln Cathedral. Canterbury is one of the five ‘Magna Carta towns’ because of Archbishop Stephen Langton’s association with the issue of the charter, and it has been suggested that BL Ci may be the Magna Carta originally held at Canterbury Cathedral, straying from the collections after the Reformation. It is highly appropriate to be able to ‘bring home’ this copy of Magna Carta and we are grateful to the Friends of the National Libraries for helping us to do so.