Diary of Sir Frederic Madden reporting damage to the burnt Magna Carta


Nobody knows exactly how the damaged Magna Carta came to acquire its current state. The best indication is provided in the diary of Sir Frederic Madden (1801–73), Keeper of Manuscripts at the British Museum from 1837 to 1866. Writing in 1858, Madden reported that this Magna Carta was ‘injured in the fire of 1731 (and still more, by the injudicious treatment it received from Mr Hogarth in 1836)’. Josiah Forshall (1795–1863), the previous Keeper, had requested permission from the British Museum Trustees to conserve Magna Carta in 1834, for which delicate task Hogarth, employed as a binder, may have been eminently unsuited. It has been suggested that Hogarth flattened the manuscript with a roller so as to adhere it to a backing sheet, perhaps having soaked it first; the application of blotting paper to dry the parchment may have lifted off much of the ink that survived such a process.

Full title:
Diary of Sir Frederic Madden reporting damage to the burnt Magna Carta
7 December 1858
Sir Frederic Madden
© Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
Held by
Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
MS Eng. hist. c. 171

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