Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Perot Foundation is selling the Magna Carta in two days

On my last trip to Washington DC I wrote about going to the National Archives and stumbling upon the Magna Carta, which I discovered was on indefinite loan from the Perot Foundation. As it happens, the foundation is auctioning off the document this Thursday at Sotheby's. Should be an interesting auction, but it's too bad -- I really enjoyed seeing it in the Archives.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A rare 710-year-old copy of the Magna Carta valued at up to $30 million is due to be sold by The Perot Foundation at Sotheby's in New York in December, the auction house said on Tuesday.

The Magna Carta established rights of the English people and curbed the power of the king. The U.S. Constitution includes ideas and phrases taken almost directly from the charter, which rebellious barons forced their oppressive King John to sign in 1215.

Sotheby's said the Magna Carta was ratified and reissued with each monarch who succeeded John. It was enacted as law in 1297 by the British parliament when it was reissued by King Edward I. The copy to be sold is from 1297.

Sotheby's said there are fewer than 20 copies of the Magna Carta and that this copy, which has been on display at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington D.C., is one of only two held outside of Britain. The other copy, also from 1297, is owned by the Australian government.

David Redden, Sotheby's vice chairman, said the document "symbolizes mankind's eternal quest for freedom; it is a talisman of liberty."

Sotheby's said The Perot Foundation, created by billionaire former U.S. presidential candidate Ross Perot to make philanthropic grants, would use the money for its charities. The Foundation bought the Magna Carta in 1984.

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