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    Sale 7548

    Valuable Manuscripts and Printed Books

    12 November 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 121

    BILL OF RIGHTS, 1688 -- The declaration of the Lords and Commons assembled at Westminster; presented to Their Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Orange, at White-Hall the 13th. of February, 1688/9. London: 1689

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    Estimate

    BILL OF RIGHTS, 1688 -- The declaration of the Lords and Commons assembled at Westminster; presented to Their Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Orange, at White-Hall the 13th. of February, 1688/9. London: 1689

    2° (240 x 146mm). Bifolium, page 2, line 11 ending 'cruel'. (Cropped at head and tail, with loss of part of 'The' on p.1, the catchwords on pp. 2 and 3, and page numbers to head of pp.3 & 4, some very light spotting, light vertical crease and two light horizontal creases.) Unbound.

    FIRST UNOFFICIAL EDITION OF THE DECLARATION OF RIGHTS. It is possible that this unofficial printing is earlier than the official one for two reasons: it does not contain William's answer of 15th February; and secondly, in the order at the end it states: 'It is Ordered ... That this Declaration be Engrossed in Parchment, Enrolled among the Rolls of Parliament, and Recorded in Chancery' i.e. it has yet to be incorporated in a legal document. The official edition (see Christie's 4th June 2008, lot 159) prints both William's answer and the order that 'His Majesties gracious answer this day be added to the engrossed Declaration in Parchment, to be enrolled in Parliament and Chancery'. Another difference between the two editions is that the present work has the correct date of 13th February, while the official edition gives 12th February. Two issues of the present work are known (see Wing), but without priority.

    'ONE OF THE GREAT CONSTITUTIONAL DOCUMENTS OF ENGLISH HISTORY' (Oxford Companion to the Law, p.132). On 13 February 1689 the Declaration of Rights, drawn up by a committee of the commons, was delivered by the Lords and Commons to William and Mary of Orange. Two days later, they accepted the Declaration, clearing the way for them to succeed to the crown as William III and Mary. With little change the Declaration was enacted in December 1689 as the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights enshrined confirmed free elections of Members of Parliament; the right of subjects to petition the monarch; and that cruel and unusual punishment ought not to be inflicted, among other constitutional rights. It also confirmed the succession of the monarchy and provided a new oath of allegiance.

    The English Bill of Rights embodied the fundamental principles of the constitution; it introduced no new law but asserted ancient rights and liberties. It is 'next to the Magna Carta the greatest landmark in the constitutional history of England' (Encyc. Brit.). S. Lambert, Printing for Parliament 1641-1700, 1984, p.253, E1354; Wing E-1447.


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