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Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence, on loan from The New York Public Library, and the Delaware copy of the US Bill of Rights, on loan from The US National Archives, two of the most iconic documents in American history, are in the UK for the first time and on display at the British Library from last Friday in the world’s largest exhibition about Magna Carta.

"Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy" unites over 200 exhibits, including iconic documents, such as two of the four surviving 1215 Magna Carta manuscripts, artworks, medieval manuscripts, Royal remains, weaponry and 800 year old garments, through to modern interpretations and satires of the document, to tell a revealing story of how Magna Carta has become a global symbol of freedom.

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Just days after four Magna Cartas were united for the first time in 800 years at the British Library in London, another ancient version of the document has been discovered by chance in a medieval coastal town in England.

Mark Bateson, an archivist in Sandwich, southern England, found the previously unknown version of the Magna Carta -- which established the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law -- after historian Nicholas Vincent had asked him to look for a separate document dealing with a local forest that he was researching.

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The four known extant copies of the original Magna Carta – often cited as England’s first cautious step toward individual rights — will unite at the British Library in London this week for the first time in their 800-year history.

England’s King John signed Magna Carta in 1215 after rebellious barons seized the Tower of London, threatening his power. Under siege at home and abroad, John put his name to a document which handed over significant powers to the barons. A number of copies stamped with the official royal seal were then drawn up and distributed across England.

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In 1215, Saher de Quincy, the Earl of Manchester, and 24 other barons forced King John of England to sign the Magna Carta, which limited the king's powers and protected their interests. Since the 1900s, statues of Quincy and other barons have stood in the chamber of the House of Lords in London, "as a reminder to all lords who sit below to keep an eye on the monarchy and make sure absolutism did not recur," said Michael Hatt.

The Quincy statue is in New Haven now, for a limited time, and Hatt couldn't be more delighted. "It's a real coup getting it here," he said.

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One of four remaining copies of the original Magna Carta is on display at The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, surrounded by influential documents in American history.

Reverend Philip Buckler is Dean of England’s Lincoln Cathedral, the permanent home for the version of the Magna Carta currently on view at The Clark. Buckler explains the document was forced upon England’s King John by the country’s barons who were fed up with his demands and increasing taxes to fund warfare abroad.

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