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May 3, 2011 > Britain's Magna Carta on display

Britain's Magna Carta on display

By Mona Shah

Considered one of the most important documents in the history of democracy, the Magna Carta held by Oxford University's Bodleian Library, is making a very rare public appearance at San Francisco's Legion of Honor.

Paving the way for democracy in the United States, the charter established principles of individual liberty and constitutional government. Its declaration, that no free man should be imprisoned without due process, underlies the development of common law in England.

Magna Carta, on loan to the Legion of Honor, is one of four surviving manuscripts from the revised 1217 issue. The document displayed is an original Magna Carta, not a copy. Inscribed by hand in Medieval Latin on a 21-inch sheep or goatskin parchment, this storied manuscript first etched the rights of man into English law. Agreed upon on June 15, 1215, by King John of England and his barons at Runnymede, this "Great Charter of English Liberties" contains 56 lines of text that run the gamut from fishing rights on the river Thames to the supremacy of the rule of law above all else.

Dr. James Ganz, Curator of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, is coordinating the installation of the Magna Carta at the Legion of Honor. "This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event," Ganz said. "This historic document is not normally on view even where it resides at the Bodleian Library. It has traveled to the United States only twice before, both times for private events. This is its first public display on this continent in its nearly 800-year history."

Viewing the Magna Carta is included in the general admission ticket for the Legion of Honor. There is a $5 surcharge for Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave, on view in the lower level galleries of the Legion of Honor through June 5.

Britain's Magna Carta
May 7- June 5
Tuesday through Sunday
9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.
The Legion of Honor
Lincoln Park
100 - 34th Avenue (at Clement Street), San Francisco
(415) 750-3600
Tickets: $6-$10

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