An original Magna Carta is on display publicly in America for the first time. It'll be taking up residence at San Francisco's Legion of Honor until June 5.
The Great Charter is considered one of the founding documents of modern democracy and law. It was forced upon King John of England by feudal barons in an attempt to limit his powers and protect their privileges in 1217.
The parchment is roughly 21 inches high and 17 inches wide, containing 56 lines of Latin text , laying out some rather momentous (for the time) rules for society.
The document introduced the concept of a free man, giving rights to those who were not nobly born. It declares that no free man should be imprisoned without due process, and a constitutional government.
It also governs more mundane matters very specific to the time and place: fishing rights on the rivers Thames and Medway, knights' duties, the rights of the church, and language to protect widows -- although women were denied the right to accuse murders. Most of the Magna Carta's clauses have been suspended in British or American common law, yet it continues to serve as a model and inspiration for governance.