West Surrey Area
Museums & Art Galleries
The British Library
Magna Carta exhibition
and Guided Tour
Friday 24th April 2015
Our visit to the British Library was essentially to view the Magna
Carta exhibition, but
commenced with a guided tour, by a most
instructive guide. I
was particularly impressed with the Kings
Library of George III – a 6-storey glass tower holding 65,000 printed
volumes along with pamphlets, manuscripts & maps collected by the
King. One wonders when he had time for regal duties.
Before visiting the main exhibition, we were drawn to the Treasures of the British Library,
where we found a magnificent collection of original material.
This ranged through samples of the original Lindisfarne Gospels,
Shakespeare’s First Folio, Handel’s Messiah and even the scribbled
origin of one of the Beatles’ songs. This exhibition is free, and
one to be recommended.
Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy
Since 1215 the Magna Carta has evolved from a political agreement to an
international symbol of freedom. Yet it started as a practical
solution to a political crisis 800 years ago. Fundamentally, it
established the principle of the Rule of Law. The collection at
the exhibition was thorough and edifying. We saw 2 of the 4
original Magna Carta documents, albeit one had been badly burnt.
One has to remember that the Magna Carta was used as a precedent for
the creation of the legal documentation upon the independence of the
USA. We were shown Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the
Declaration of Independence and one of the original copies of the
American Bill of Rights.
Magna Carta manuscript,
Delaware's ratification of the Bill of Rights
on loan from US National Archives
Although many of the terms of the Magna Carta became irrelevant over
the years, the principle tenets remain as relevant today as they did in
1215. The European Human Rights legislation, for example,
contains much of the relevant rights established in that original
All in all, a most successful visit and thanks to Gwen for her usual
valiant efforts at organising the visitors.
Related Links (open in new window):
The British Library
Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy