Mark Bateson, an archivist in Sandwich, southern England, found the previously unknown version of the Magna Carta — which established the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law — after historian Nicholas Vincent had asked him to look for a separate document dealing with a local forest that he was researching.
After rummaging through a scrapbook of council archives, Bateson found the Forest Charter, a document issued by King Henry III in 1217, as well as a tattered page that he thought looked like the Magna Carta.
“He wasn’t really aware of the fact that they were either rare or that this one was indeed what it purported to be. I think, from his point of view, it was all a bit of a shock,” said Vincent, professor of medieval history at the University of East Anglia.
But he says there is no doubt that this is a version of the Magna Carta, or “The Great Charter,” that was published in 1300 under the reign of King Edward I. The original document was issued by England’s King John in 1215.