Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Magna Carta for sale

Sotheby's plans to auction a 1297 copy of the Magna Carta in December (thanks to PhiloBiblos for pointing out the New York Times article). This copy, one of only 17 from the 13th century and the only one outside Britain and Australia, was until last week on display in an alcove of the Rotunda of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. (pictured above, 2006). The Ross Perot Foundation which owns the document suddenly decided to put it up for sale. "Its departure came so suddenly that the archives did not have time to remodel the display case or fill it with some of the nine billion documents from the archives’ own collection." Sotheby's is advertising the sale as "the most important document ever offered at auction" and expects it to sell for $20-30 million.

Given the iconic importance of the Magna Carta (see my previous post) to American rhetoric about antecedents to the U.S. Constitution, I expect there will be considerable effort, perhaps political as well as financial, to keep it in the country and on public display. Stay tuned ...

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