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Lincoln's Magna Carta almost destroyed

By This is Lincolnshire  |  Posted: September 16, 2009

Lincoln's copy of the 800-year-old Magna Carta is currently on a tour of the US

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A US worker came within seconds of destroying Lincoln's copy of the Magna Carta after nearly spraying it with a chemical cleaner.

The 800-year-old document is currently on display in New York, but almost met a sticky end thanks to an overzealous cleaner.

Lincoln Cathedral's archive conservation consultant Chris Woods accompanied the document, spending hours making sure the inked sheepskin which contains the charter of freedom, was placed correctly into a £42,000 vacuum-sealed display case to keep it safe from the elements.

And it was, until a lock briefly malfunctioned just as a workman tried to give it a last minute wipe with a chemical cleaner – potentially wiping history right off the page.

The New York Times reported that Mr Woods rushed over and took away the fluid before the vapours got to the script, saying: "Bleach it out nicely that would."

Lincoln Cathedral Dean Reverend Philip Buckler spoke to the Echo from New York yesterday.

"It was never in any serious danger," he said.

"We had the grand opening last night and people came from all over the US."

The document had travelled with an armed escort from Heathrow Airport in a climate controlled box as part of a programme of US tours which last saw it displayed at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in June.

Now it will wow visitors to the Fraunces Tavern Museum in Lower Manhattan until December 15.

Lincoln's copy of the Magna Carta is pretty much the only one of the original four that can travel – one is burnt, another unreadable, and the other too fragile.

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    Chris Woods, Northamptonshire  |  September 18 2009, 9:29AM

    To set the record straight, Magna Carta was still packed up safely inside its special transit case when the cleaning fluid was used to spray a patch of floor on to which the display case was to be placed. Magna Carta was never in any danger of direct contact. We require however that no chemical cleaning agents are used around the case so as to avoid prolonged exposure to damaging vapours. The cleaning fluid was just the kind of material we ask not to be used. The New York Times article, used to produce this Echo piece, was largely humorous but does makes it quite clear that there was no risk to the charter.

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    Toni, Lincoln  |  September 16 2009, 5:35PM

    I don't know why they didn't send the copy to America. I had relatives staying last week and they have never been to Lincoln castle and were looking forward to seeing the Magna Carta. When we got there it was just a copy. It would have made more sense to leave it in Lincoln where its safe

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    Alan, Lincoln  |  September 16 2009, 8:11AM

    800 years of recorded history almost wiped out by friendly cleaning

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    Martin, Lincoln  |  September 16 2009, 6:57AM

    "pretty much" eh? Now that's classy journalism right there.

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    John King, Skellingthorpe  |  September 16 2009, 6:57AM

    Hope somebody thought to stick it in the photocopier before it went to America.