Today the "rule of law" signifies an idea of governance by law, and government held accountable to
law. It suggests equal access for all to justice through effective courts, and assumes a set of
fundamental personal rights given full protection under law. Few documents in the western tradition
are more richly symbolic and more foundational for this tradition of rights and the rule of law than
In celebration of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the University of Minnesota Law Library has
digitized its year-long exhibit, "Magna Carta, 800 Years: Rights and the Rule of Law," and created a
virtual showcase for its premier collection of early printed editions of Magna Carta, the earliest of which
dates to 1514. Drawn from the treasures of the Library's Arthur C. Pulling Rare Books Collection, the
exhibit features over seventy-five works that reflect and illuminate the deep influence of Magna
Carta on the Anglo-American legal tradition.
Viewed through cases, texts and ideas that were shaped by Magna Carta, the exhibit traces the
document's impact on the development of rights and the rule of law in England and early America, and
its emergence on a global stage. Through the exhibit we invite visitors to explore the history, challenges
and promise of Magna Carta, rights and the rule of law, in its first eight hundred years.
The library would like to thank Associate Dean Joan Howland and Dean David Wippman for their
generous support and encouragement of this project.