A Teaching Text for Liberty
Sir Edward Coke’s The Second Part of the Institutes contains a detailed commentary on Magna Carta that casts the charter as the central legal safeguard of individual liberties against arbitrary action by the king. Coke understood Magna Carta, not as an assertion of new rights, but as a declaration of rights that the English people held since antiquity. On display is Thomas Jefferson’s own copy of Coke’s Institutes. Jefferson’s initials can be seen at the bottom right of the page.