Magna Carta (An Embroidery)

Magna Carta (An Embroidery) is a 2015 work by English installation artist Cornelia Parker.[1] The artwork is an embroidered representation of the complete text and images of an online encyclopedia article for Magna Carta, as it appeared in English Wikipedia on 15 June 2014, the 799th anniversary of the document.[1]

Magna Carta (An Embroidery)
Detail of the top left of Magna Carta (An Embroidery)
ArtistCornelia Parker
Year2015 (2015)
SubjectThe Magna Carta English Wikipedia article as of 15 June 2014
Dimensions1.5 m × 13 m (4.9 ft × 43 ft)
Documentary film on the making of Magna Carta (An Embroidery)



The hand-stitched embroidery is 1.5 metres (5') wide and nearly 13 metres (42') long. It is a response to the legacy of Magna Carta in the digital era and Parker has referred to it as "a snapshot of where the debate is right now", the result of all open edits by English Wikipedians up to that date.[1] It was commissioned by the Ruskin School of Art at the University of Oxford in partnership with the British Library,[2] after being chosen from proposals from a shortlist of artists in February 2014.[3]

Parker used a screenshot from the 15 June 2014 English Wikipedia article for Magna Carta and printed it onto fabric. Like English Wikipedia, the embroidery was created through the collaboration of many individuals. It was divided in 87 sections and sent to 200 individuals who each hand-stitched portions of the artwork. She sought the collaboration of people and groups that have been affected by and associated with Magna Carta.[4] The majority of the text was sewn by prisoners.[5] Members of the Embroiderers' Guild stitched the images, with at least one embroiderer selected from each region of the UK.[6] Many celebrities and public figures also contributed, stitching phrases or words of special significance to them.[7] Parker has represented the work as "Echoing the communal activity that 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."[1]

The work includes a tea stain from a prisoner and a spot of blood from Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, who accidentally pricked his finger while sewing.[7]


Detail of the work reproducing an image of the 1297 copy of Magna Carta on display in the Members' Hall of Parliament House, Canberra, Australia
The entire embroidery

Parker invited some 200 people to hand-stitch portions of the work including prison inmates, civil rights campaigners, MPs, lawyers, barons and artists.[1] Much of the work was done by 36 prisoners from 13 different prisons in England, under the supervision of the social enterprise Fine Cell Work.[8] Members of the Embroiderers' Guild contributed the images as did students from the Royal School of Needlework and the London embroidery company Hand & Lock.

Six students from La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls' School, London were the youngest contributors to the work.[9]

Parker invited royalty to contribute to the work, but they declined. She said that right-wing people were more likely to decline; both Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond also declined to contribute.[10]

List of contributors



Magna Carta (An Embroidery) formed part of an exhibition celebrating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. It was displayed in the Entrance Hall of the British Library from 15 May to 24 July 2015,[1] at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, August – November 2016, and in the Blackwell Hall of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, 11 November 2015 – 3 January 2016, touring other United Kingdom locations in the rest of 2016 and 2017.[12] In 2022 it was exhibited at Tate Britain as part of an exhibition of Cornelia Parker's work.[13] From 15 May to 17 September 2023 it was displayed as part of the exhibition To Be Free: Art and Liberty at Salisbury Cathedral.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "A new artwork by Cornelia Parker that responds to Magna Carta in the digital era". British Library. Archived from the original on 15 May 2015. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  2. ^ "Ruskin School of Art commissions artwork to mark Magna Carta's 800th anniversary". University of Oxford. 27 November 2014. Archived from the original on 14 January 2020. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  3. ^ Claire Breay, Magna Carta (An Embroidery) Archived 7 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine, British Library medieval manuscripts blog, 14 May 2015 (retrieved 17 May 2015)
  4. ^ "Cornelia Parker's Magna Carta And Alice In Wonderland At 150 Celebrated At British Library". Artlyst. 3 December 2014. Archived from the original on 1 January 2017. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Magna Carta (An Embroidery)". Archived from the original on 7 May 2016. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  6. ^ a b Cliss, Sarah (8 October 2014). "Janet has historic artwork all sewn up". Wisbech Standard. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Masters, Tim (14 May 2015). "Hand-sewn Wikipedia page marks Magna Carta anniversary". BBC News. Archived from the original on 8 July 2019. Retrieved 27 May 2023.
  8. ^ Craig, Zoe (16 May 2015). "Someone's Embroidered Magna Carta's Wikipedia Page". Londonist. Archived from the original on 17 July 2015. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  9. ^ a b Heidi and Holly (19 May 2015). "Embroidering the Magna Carta to mark 800th anniversary". BBC News School Report. Archived from the original on 16 May 2020. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  10. ^ Jones, Jonathan (14 May 2015). "Kings and needles: the Magna Carta gets an embroidery update". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  11. ^ a b c d e f "Cornelia Parker unveils 13 metre-long Magna Carta embroidery at the British Library stitched by over 200 individuals, including Jarvis Cocker, Edward Snowden and Baroness Doreen Lawrence". British Library. Archived from the original on 22 May 2015. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  12. ^ "Cornelia Parker's Magna Carta (An Embroidery) now on display at the Weston Library". Bodleian Libraries news. University of Oxford. 11 November 2015. Archived from the original on 18 November 2015. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  13. ^ Tiesenhausen, Aliya de (3 July 2022). "It takes a village: embroidering the Wikipedia page on Magna Carta - the thread". Archived from the original on 11 August 2022. Retrieved 8 July 2022.
  14. ^ "Exhibition: To Be Free: Art and Liberty". Archived from the original on 22 February 2024. Retrieved 18 July 2023.
  • Fine Cell Work - the social enterprise through which prisoners stitched the text.