UEA academic authenticates ‘lost’ edition of the Magna Carta valued at £10m
PUBLISHED: 17:01 08 February 2015 | UPDATED: 17:01 08 February 2015
A University of East Anglia professor has authenticated a previously unknown edition of the Magna Carta which had lain forgotten in a council’s archives.
The discovery of the version of the historical parchment, which could be worth £10m, in the files of the history department of Kent County Council, has been described as an important historical find by an expert.
The document was found in the archives kept in Maidstone but belonging to the town of Sandwich.
Speaking from Paris, Professor Nicholas Vincent, of the University of East Anglia, said: “It is a fantastic discovery which comes in the week that the four other known versions were brought together at the Houses of Parliament.
“It is a fantastic piece of news for Sandwich which puts it in a small category of towns and institutions that own a 1300 issue.”
Prof Vincent said the fact Sandwich had its own Magna Carta gives backing to the theory that it was issued more widely than previously thought to at least 50 cathedral towns and ports.
And he added the discovery gives him hope that further copies will also turn up.
There are only 24 editions of the Magna Carta in known existence around the world.
Prof Vincent said: “It must have been much more widely distributed than previously thought because if Sandwich had one ... the chances are it went out to a lot of other towns.
“And it is very likely that there are one or two out there somewhere that no one has spotted yet.”
Prof Vincent, who specialises in medieval history, said the value of the Sandwich edition could be up to £10 million, but it was ripped with about a third missing.
He said: “This would be an upper value as it has, like the town of Sandwich, suffered over time from French invasions and the like.”
The discovery was made by archivist Dr Mark Bateson at the end of December just before the 800th anniversary year celebrations of King John’s concession.
The Sandwich Magna Carta was found when Prof Vincent asked Dr Bateson to look up a copy of the town’s original Charter of the Forest.
It was found next to the charter in a Victorian scrapbook and its high value comes from the fact it also comprises the Forest Charter. There is only one other such pair in the world, owned by Oriel College, Oxford.
It is understood that Sandwich does not intend to sell its Magna Carta but instead is hoping to benefit from its potential as a tourist attraction.