News | November 22, 2023

Rare Early 18th Century Printing of Original Magna Carta Text to Auction

Chiswick Auctions

The Magna Carta document: estimate of £6000-8000

The rare vellum copy of the most celebrated legal document in the English-speaking world was published in 1733 by the English designer, engraver, and cartographer John Pine (1690-1756). It will be offered by Chiswick Auctions on November 29 by a private vendor with an estimate of £6,000-£8,000.

The project to reproduce the text of the 1215 Great Charter began in 1731 shortly after the celebrated Sir Robert Cotton library of manuscripts (that later became the basis for the British Library) was hit by a fire. While Cotton’s two copies of Magna Carta survived, they were damaged. For posterity and for commercial opportunity, John Pine chose to copy one of them meticulously including a facsimile of the remnants of King John’s Great Seal melted by the heat form the fire. 

He embellished the engraving by adding the 25 coats of arms of the barons who had forced King John to sign the document and added a dedication panel with the line Sold by J. Pine Engraver against little Britain in Aldersgate Street and by the Booksellers of London and Westminster.

Pine, who is well known for his association with William Hogarth, was himself a herald in the College of Arms holding the ancient office of Bluemantle Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary. The first impressions of the engraving were printed on vellum, as here, with a later second state printed on paper.