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Magna Carta anniversary: Rare Law Books in Special Collections

This week marks the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta — either on June 15 or 19, 1215 (historians are still debating the exact date). The iconic charter has a strong legal and historical legacy both in the United Kingdom as well as the United States, where it is seen as an influence on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

As the anniversary of Magna Carta is celebrated this week, here is a peek at a few examples of rare British and American law books from Special Collections’ holdings.

Perhaps the oldest English law book in Special Collections is this small 1538 volume of statutes, printed during the reign of Henry VIII (Vault Collection 346 G798 1538):



This 1606 volume (Rare Book Collection 346 G798k 1606) prints many historic English statutes, including Magna Carta:



One of the most famous treatises on English common law is Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, first published in 1765. This 1783 edition was owned by LDS apostle James E. Talmage (Rare Book Collection KD 660 .B53 1783):KD660B531783_Titlepage


The publication of this 1783 translation of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation (made by Louis Alexandre, duc de La Rochefoucald) was negotiated by Benjamin Franklin (Vault Collection 342.73 Un3cn 1783):34273Un3cn1783_p419


Plan of the new constitution for the United States of America, agreed upon in a convention of the states (Vault Collection 342.73 Un3c 1787) announces the Constitutional Convention of 1787 which led to the drafting of the current United States Constitution:


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