Democracy’s roots under the hammer in New York

NEW YORK, Dec 17, 2007 (AFP) – Arguably the most important document ever to be auctioned goes on sale Tuesday when the Magna Carta, an 800-year-old English royal manuscript, goes under the hammer at Sotheby’s in New York.

The royal charter, dated 1297 and bearing the wax seal of King Edward I, enshrined the rights of man into English law and is considered the precursor of such landmark historical documents as the US Declaration of Independence.

Sotheby’s Vice Chairman and Tuesday night’s auctioneer David Redden described the vellum manuscript, which is expected to fetch 20 to 30 million dollars, as quite simply “the most important document in the world.”

“It’s the great-great-great-grandfather of some of the great documents — at least in America — of freedom, such as the declaration of independence, the constitution or the bill of rights,” he told AFP ahead of the auction.

“All of these have a common ancestor, which is Magna Carta.”

The manuscript is the only one of 17 remaining examples ever likely to be sold. Most of the rest belong to Britain’s national archives, cathedrals or universities while the only other copy outside Britain belongs to Australia.

The manuscript, most likely made of