An unassuming scrapbook buried inside the archives of Sandwich, England turned out to hold quite a treasure: an original copy of the Magna Carta from 1300, one of just several that have survived all these centuries.
The Magna Carta Project announced the discovery this week, after verifying the tattered page found in December was indeed the real deal. It appears a British Museum official had compiled the document in a scrapbook in the late 1800s, which was then placed in the archives. There, it remained forgotten until now.
The copy is badly damage, missing about a third of its text and its royal seal. But the remaining writing and text—along with the date issued at the bottom—was enough to confirm its authenticity.
With this new discovery, the total known copies of the Magna Carta add up to just two dozen. The Magna Carta was reissued several times between 1215 and 1300, and this is the seventh copy of the 1300 version. Sandwich's copy is an especially exciting find because its companion document, the Charter of the Forest, also survives. Only one other pair still exists.
In fact, it was research into Sandwich's Charter of the Forest that prompted a historian to dig through Sandwich's archives, eventually leading to the rediscovery of the town's Magna Carta. Just goes to how you never know what's hiding in the archives. [Magna Carta Project]
Image credit: Sandwich Town Council