World's oldest and most illustrious founding documents

ET Bureau|
​India
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​India

On the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Indian Constitution, ET Magazine scouts out some of the world's oldest and most illustrious founding documents.

The original Constitution book was handcrafted by artists of Santiniketan under the guidance of Nandalal Bose. Each page had some artwork and the calligraphy in Hindi and English were done by PremBehariNarainRaizada. The Constitution was published in Dehradun and photolithographed by Survey of India. It is preserved in a helium-filled case in Parliament.

Artist Nandlal Bose led the initiative to add art on the pages of India's Constitution.

Agencies
​Sweden
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​Sweden

Written rules determining how Sweden shall be governed have existed since the 14th century. All public power proceeds from the people and the Riksdag, the national legislature. This is stated in the Instrument of Government - the law that sets out the basic principles of the country. The first Instrument was issued in 1634. In 1809, another Instrumentwas enacted which set out the division of powers between the king and the legislature. The Riksdag took shape in the 15th century with the nobility, clergy, burghers and peasantry met individually and wrote their own records. When the Riksdag turned 500 years old in 1935, it was decided that the handwritten records from the Riksdag of the Estates in the 17th and 18th centuries would be published. This work continues. The records are kept at the National Archives in Stockholm.

The Riksdag in Stockholm

Handwritten records of the Riksdag of the Estates

Agencies
​USA
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​USA

Jacob Shallus engrossed the original US Constitution. The handwritten document, on display at National Archives Museum, had grammatical errors. Once the original Declaration of Independence was revised on July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress commissionedprinter John Dunlap to typeset and print copies. Dunlap, using a corrected manuscript, produced around 200 broadsides for distribution to 13 states and elsewhere.

The National Archives Museum in Washington DC is the home of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the US and Bill of Rights.

Preamble to the US Constitution was written on parchment paper that has now faded.

Agencies
​Norway
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​Norway

The Constitution was written by the Norwegian assembly on April 10, 1814. It was signed on May 17, now celebrated as Constitution Day. The text was in Danish. In 1903, the document underwent some linguistic revision but retained conservative 19th century Danish. The original document is preserved at the archives of the Storting, Norway's Parliament.

The Eidsvoll manor house where the Norwegian Constitution was signed.

Agencies
​France
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​France

The Constitution of France, called the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, was adopted on October 4, 1958. Charles de Gaulle was the driving force behind the new Constitution. The text was drafted by Michel Debré, the first PM of the Fifth Republic. The First Republic was born out of the French Revolution in 1789. A national assembly that was convened after the revolution the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen on August 26, 1789. This declaration finds a mention in the preamble of the Constitution of the Fifth Republic. The Archives Nationales holds the Declaration on the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

Painting of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen by Jean-Jacques-François Le Barbier.

Agencies
​Germany
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​Germany

The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany was approved in 1949 when Germany was split into East and West. It was not called a Constitution since it was a temporary law until the country was united. But the name Basic Law was not changed even after unification. The original text prepared by a panel of experts and civil servants is stored in a safe in the Bundestag and is used to administer the oath of office to the chancellor and the president.

The container with the original Basic Law for Federal Republic of Germany in Barbarastollen underground archive.

In pic: The container with the original Basic Law for Federal Republic of Germany in Barbarastollen underground archive.

Agencies
​Australia
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​Australia

The Australian Constitution - the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 - was given legality after the British Parliament passed it in 1900. The document was printed on parchments and secured with a red silk ribbon.

Though Queen Victoria's signature on this document enacted the Australian Constitution, the federation of the colonies did not become an reality until January 1, 1901, at a ceremony in Centennial Park, Sydney. At this ceremony, when six independent colonies were united as the Commonwealth of Australia.

The Constitution and Royal Commission of Assent are currently in storage but will go on display in late March 2020.

(Source: Parliament, archival and government sources of different countries)

Agencies

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