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British Library sends India gifts


A copy of the Magna Carta
A copy of the Magna Carta

The British Library is sending a copy of the Magna Carta to the Jaipur Literary Festival and Shakespeare’s First Folio to a museum in Mumbai as part of the UK-India Year of Culture 2017.

The year of culture was agreed between Narendra Modi and David Cameron when the Indian prime minister visited the UK in November last year.

The British Library announced last week that it “will be partnering with the Jaipur Literature Festival to host a series of events in Jaipur and London during 2017.

In January the Library will be part of the programme in Jaipur that looks at the legacy of Magna Carta, including the loan of a facsimile of the 1215 Magna Carta to be displayed on site during the Festival; and in May, the London leg of the Jaipur Literature Festival will be hosted by the British Library for the first time.”

The British Library also revealed “plans to loan George III’s own copy of one of the world’s most famous books, Shakespeare’s First Folio, for public display at the CSMVS museum in Mumbai in January. The loan is supported by the British Council as part of the GREAT campaign, and builds on the Library’s wider programme of working more closely with sister institutions in India and digitising our extensive collections relating to South Asia, such as the Two Centuries of Indian Print project.”

Magna Carta Libertatum (Medieval Latin for “the Great Charter of the Liberties”), commonly called Magna Carta, is a charter agreed to by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, on June 15, 1215. It still forms an important symbol of liberty today, often cited by politicians and campaigners, and is held in great respect by the British and American legal communities.

The late Lord Denning once described it as “the greatest constitutional document of all time – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot”. It is seen as especially significant that a copy is being sent to India, “the biggest democracy in the world”, but where often human rights and liberties are abused by those in power.

In an interview with Eastern Eye, Jamie Andrews, head of culture and learning at the British Library, said what was being sent to India was not the original but a high quality photographic copy “created to look as close as possible to the original and framed as the original is framed – we are going to have it at the heart of the Jaipur Literary Festival (from Jan 19-23)”.

The British Library is currently putting together a panel – “and we have got a really interesting mix”.

Andrews said: “The Magna Carta dates from 1215 – it is often seen as the guarantor of justice and of rights but, of course, in 1215 that was a very different context from today.

“The richness of the Magna Carta is that it allowed us to have the debates around what those concepts mean today. It is also seen as being at the heart of questions about rights of citizens. So the hundreds of thousands of festival goers will be hearing from panels around that.”

Andrews added: “We will be having events here in the main building (and) the theatre, and that is the way for us to make a really strong connection with JLF both there and here.”

Shakespeare’s First Folio, dating from 1623, will be displayed at the Prince of Wales Museum (now renamed the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya).

Again, “there will be interpretations and we will be working both with the British Council and the CSMVS (to debate) what Shakespeare means today and the importance of Shakespeare”.

William Shakespeare, born in 1564, died in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 23, 1616. His friends and admirers put together the First Folio of his collected works in 1623. He wrote around 37 plays, 36 of which are contained in the First Folio.