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Magna Carta printed in 1540

The Arthur C. Pulling Rare Books Collection includes a stellar collection of early printings of Magna Carta and outstanding examples of key works in legal history that bear a direct relation to Magna Carta. Four manuscript copies of the Great Charter agreed to by King John on June 15, 1215, "in the meadow that is called Runnymede, between Windsor and Staines," survive: two are in the Cathedrals of Lincoln and Salisbury, where they were placed in the thirteenth century, and two are in the British Library.

Magna Carta existed in manuscript form until 1508, when it was first printed by Richard Pynson in London. According to bibliographer Joseph Beale, eighteen printings occurred during the sixteenth century. The Law Library owns fourteen of these early printings. One of its treasures is a 1514 copy of Magna Carta, the earliest printing of Magna Carta in the Library. Another is its copy printed in 1534, the first time the Charter appeared in English rather than Latin. Yet another treasure is the copy pictured here, printed in 1540 by Elizabeth Redman, London's first woman printer.





[Magna Carta]
London: Elizabeth Redman, 1540