An edition of one of western history's great documents has been discovered in Sandwich, southeastern England. Researchers came upon a copy of the Magna Carta when seeking a companion document in local archives, the Magna Carta Project reports. Hidden in a scrapbook from the 19th century, the newly discovered document has suffered damage over the centuries and has lost about a third of its text, researchers say. Some 24 editions of the document currently exist, the BBC reports. But this one has special importance: Both the Magna Carta and the partner document, the Forest Charter, have survived, making them one of only two existing pairs. It could be worth up to $15 million.
The find comes months ahead of the 800th anniversary of 1215 sealing of the Magna Carta, which limited the king's power. The Sandwich discovery is from 1300, under the reign of Edward I, researchers say. There are seven existing copies of the 1300 Magna Carta, which "was apparently the last drawn up by the royal chancery and distributed under the king’s seal," the experts write. The new find sheds further light on the document's distribution: "It must have been much more widely distributed than previously thought because if Sandwich had one ... the chances are it went out to a lot of other towns," Professor Nicholas Vincent tells the Huffington Post. "And it is very likely that there are one or two out there somewhere that no one has spotted yet." The find comes as the four surviving original copies of the document are brought together for the first time. (Read more Magna Carta stories.)