Introduction

The Riesenfeld Center holds fourteen of the eighteen editions of Magna Carta printed before 1600, an almost unrivalled collection in North America. These early Magna Cartas are a centerpiece of the Library's rare English law collection, and are the heart of the current exhibit, "Magna Carta, 800 Years: Rights and the Rule of Law." Acquired largely in the 1930s by Law Librarian Arthur C. Pulling, each Magna Carta in the collection is unique. In the books' pages can be found autographs of early owners, legal citations and annotations, and early doodles. For students and scholars, the books reveal interesting editorial and printing choices, and suggest the reading practices of law students and lawyers in Renaissance England. The Center also holds the three English-language editions of Magna Carta printed before 1600, including the first, from 1534, printed the same year as Tyndale's revised Bible. This revolutionary edition brought Magna Carta to a wider audience, and all the early printed editions helped reinforce the Charter's importance.