800 Years of Magna Carta Celebrated in Embroidery

As part of British Library’s epic exhibition celebrating eight centuries of Magna Carta, a new embroidered artwork by Cornelia Parker was unveiled in May. A landmark in constitutional history and a foundation of the concept of the rule of law, Magna Carta is one of the most famous documents ever written. What began life in the13th centuryas apeace treaty between King John and his barons has come to be viewed as the great charter of civil liberties and retains enormous symbolic power as an ancient defence of individual rights and freedoms.

Responding to this historic document in the digital era, Magna Carta (An Embroidery) is a stitched facsimile of the entire Magna carta Wikipedia entry as of 15 June 2014.

Magna Carta 2

The Wikipedia page regularly attracts more than 150,000 page views each month and is constantly being amended as the commentary on Magna Carta ebbs and flows. “This is a snapshotof where the debate is right now,” says parker. “Echoing the communal activitythat resulted in the Bayeux Tapestry but on this occasion placing more emphasis on the word rather than the image, I wanted to create an artwork that is a contemporary interpretation of Magna Carta.”

Magna Carta 1

The resulting embroidered artwork is nearly 13 metres long and its making required months of co-ordinated planning. First the Wikipedia entry was printed on fabric. This was then divided into 87 sections and sent around the country to be embroidered by more than 200 people. The sections were subsequently reunited and sewn together by the Royal School of Needlework.

Magna carta 3

The bulk of the text was stitched by prisoners under the supervision of Fine Cell Work, whilst the detailed pictures, emblems and logos that punctuate the text were embroidered by regional members of the Embroiderers’ Guild, as well as the RSN and Hand & Lock. Parker also invited contributors from other people whose voices speak to different aspects of the document – from QCs to human rights activists; artists to journalists and students.

Magna Carta (An Embroidery) is on display at the British Library until 24th July 2015 (free).

from Embroidery, The Textile Art Magazine (July/August 2015)

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