Magna Carta Reveals Lost Text Hidden In 800 Year Old Damaged Paper

A scan of the Magna Carta manuscript has revealed hidden text within the nearly 800-year-old parchment paper. The news comes a day after it was announced that all four surviving copies of the original document would be brought together for the first time during the 800th anniversary of its signing in 1215.

The Magna Carta is one of the most important documents in British history, and established that nobody, not even the ruler, was above the law. This brought big changes to England’s society, which had been used to the frequent abuse of authority on the part of monarchs.

A burned section of the document, which had remain unseen for the past 250-years, was revealed after experts used a new technology called, multispectral imaging work at the British Library, ahead of the important anniversary. This particular manuscript was allegedly damaged in a fire at the Cotton Library in 1731, and is one of four surviving copies of the 1215 agreement.

The Magna Carta was initially drafted as a peace treaty between King John and dissenting barons, and was signed at Runnymede in Surrey, England. King John was facing a rebellion on the part of his barons, who believed that he was overtaxing them, and had refused to address their complaints. The barons renounced their oaths of allegiances to him and seized London.

At the time, the barons’ action were unprecedented, and marked the first occasion in which a ruler was challenged by his subjects, who were attempting to limit his powers.

After the 1731 fire damaged the Magna Carta manuscript, the library staff tried to preserve the document using techniques available at the time. They try to flatten and mount it, which ultimately rendered the text very difficult to see, according to a blog post on the British Library website.

The fact that the burned copy of the Magna Carta has survived for almost 800-years is “a truly remarkable (story) of survival against all the odds,” experts comment.

“Using this technology and expertise available to us in the 21st century, we are able to preserve the Magna Carta for the next 800 years and present these iconic documents in the best possible condition for visitors who come to see them during the anniversary year.”

To find out more details about how scientists at the British Library were able to reveal the text in the damaged Magna Carta manuscript, you can visit their website here.

[Image via British Library]