TALLAHASSEE – A traveling exhibit celebrating the Magna Carta and the role it has played for 800 years in establishing and buttressing the concept of freedom under law will be hosted at the Florida Supreme Court from Feb. 15 through Feb. 26.
“Magna Carta: Enduring Legacy 1215-2015” is designed to raise public awareness of the significance of the document cherished by many American lawyers, judges, and historians as a central symbol of the rule of law that loomed very large in the minds of the leaders who founded the United States – and is still very much alive in courtrooms today.
“We were thrilled at the opportunity to host this wonderful exhibit,” Florida Chief Justice Jorge Labarga said Friday. “It’s our hope that many people are able to visit the Court and reflect on the relevance of the ‘Great Charter’ to the rights and liberties we cherish as Americans and are determined to pass on to future generations.”
One of the banners in the exhibition explains that Thomas Jefferson owned the complete set of Coke’s Institutes of the Laws of England, which contains the entire text of Magna Carta and phrase-by-phrase commentary. The Library of Congress holds Jefferson’s three-volume set in its collection.
The display is open to the public during business hours from 8:00 to 5:00. The public can also visit the Supreme Court’s library, where the rare book room collection includes an original 1669 edition of Coke’s Institutes. The rare book room also has on display a 1597 Spanish law book, which would have been used during Florida’s first Spanish period (1513-1763), and material from the Nuremberg trials in Germany, where Florida Supreme Court Justice Harold “Tom” Sebring served on the Nazi War Crimes Tribunal from the fall of 1946 through the summer of 1947.
In the Magna Carta exhibit, another banner depicts a 14th century manuscript that quotes Chapter 29 of the Magna Carta, a justly famous provision that safeguards an individual’s right to life, liberty and property against illegal action.
The traveling exhibit was organized as part of the world-wide observations held to mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, signed by England’s King John in 1215. It is a collaboration of the American Bar Association and the Law Library of Congress.
The exhibit features freestanding banners depicting medieval manuscripts, books and other artifacts in an exhibition at the Library of Congress tracing the influence of the Magna Carta beginning with King John and the English barons at Runnymeade Meadow, where the “Great Charter” was signed eight centuries ago. The exhibit curator at the Library of Congress provides detailed information about selected books and documents in a companion video.
The exhibit began its travels in 2014 at the ABA’s annual meeting in Boston. It has been seen in courthouses, law schools, universities and public libraries around the nation.