For the first time in history, all four surviving copies of the Magna Carta — one of which resides in Lincoln — will be brought together for an exhibition.
The three-day exhibition, which will be held in the British Library in 2015, will mark the 800th anniversary of the Charter document signed by King John in 1215.
The project is in conjunction with Lincoln Cathedral, which owns one copy displayed in Lincoln Castle, and Salisbury Cathedral.
The event will allow historians and scholars a chance to see all the documents together to study the text, and help work out the identity of the writers, which is still largely unknown.
It’s also part of a large research study funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council on the Magna Carta and the charters of King John.
Members of the public will also be able to see the documents together, as they get a chance to win tickets to the exhibition through a public ballot.
In Lincoln, the University of Lincoln is planning its own symposium while the manuscript is on display.
Another local question that will be explored is how influential was Lincolnshire-born Archbishop Stephen Langton during the creation of the document.
The Very Reverend Philip Buckler, Dean of Lincoln, said: “We know from the times when Magna Carta has been exhibited abroad – most recently in the United States – just how far-reaching its influence has been.
“This unification event will be of national significance, and will mark for us a pivotal point for our manuscript in the anniversary year before it returns to enter its new purpose-built home in Lincoln Castle.”
Claire Breay, Lead Curator of Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts at the British Library, added: “Magna Carta is the most popular item in the Library’s Treasures gallery, and is venerated around the world as marking the starting point for government under the law.
“Bringing the four surviving manuscripts together for the first time will create a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for researchers and members of the public to see them in one place, and will be a fantastic start to a year of celebrations.”
The Magna Carta can be seen at Lincoln Castle, which is currently under redevelopment to give the document its own special vault, alongside the Charter of the Forest (1217) and other documents from the cathedral archive and elsewhere.