The scribes who 772 years ago wrote the Magna Carta for King John of England were drafting a document that is the basis for individual rights of Americans today. Next week that document will be on exhibit in Annapolis and Rockville.

The traveling exhibit of the Magna Carta will be at the Annapolis City Dock from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are required and can be picked up free at the public library and Charing Cross book store on Maryland Avenue or at a booth on the City Dock this weekend.

The exhibit will be at Rockville Courthouse Square from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday. The free tickets can be picked up in advance at the Montgomery County regional libraries and the Rockville City Hall.

Along with the Magna Carta, original copies of the Declaration of Independence, gold coins, paper money and newspapers from colonial times will be exhibited.

The exhibit, titled "Roads to Liberty: Magna Carta to the Constitution," was formally launched March 11 at a reception in the White House Rose Garden with President Reagan. When the tour ends Sept. 18 in Philadelphia, it will have been to 25 states and the District of Columbia. It is housed in a 40-foot trailer.

"There are about 20 different collectors who have loaned documents to the tour," explained Fred Biebel, chairman of the tour and a member of the U.S. Constitution Bicentennial Commission.

Historians are not sure how many original copies of the Magna Carta were drafted for King John in 1215 in Runnymede, England, but most agree 11 to 14 copies were made. The Magna Carta spells out rights demanded by the king's barons.

"Only four copies have survived of the Magna Carta made in 1215 and the one in the best condition is the Lincoln Cathedral copy," said A.E. Dick Howard, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Virginia, when describing the copy on tour. The copy is on loan from Lincoln Cathedral in Lincoln, England.

According to Howard, 17 copies of the Magna Carta drafted from 1215 to 1297 survive. All but one of the copies are in England. In 1984 Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot paid an English family $1.5 million for a 1297 copy drafted for King Edward I.

The Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta "is the oldest historical document to which one would trace the liberties found in the U.S. Constitution," Howard said.

"There are several provisions in the Magna Carta that are distinctly constitutional in a modern sense," Howard said. "The provisions that proceedings be conducted according to the law of the land, which in a modern sense is our conception of due process of law in the Fifth and 14th amendments {of the Constitution} can be traced right back to the Magna Carta."

There is another side to the traveling exhibit: the extraordinary security and physical measures required to protect the priceless documents.

The exhibit never leaves a 40-by-8 foot specially converted trailer, valued at $1 million, which expands to a width of 13 feet. The documents are displayed in five bulletproof cases, designed by the Smithsonian Institution. All exhibit documents, except the Magna Carta, are insured by Lloyds for $4 million. Biebel said the Magna Carta is insured by a federal law that protects foreign documents on loan to the United States.

When the trailer is on the road, it gets a state police escort, and it is under 24-hour police protection. "We are also under constant surveillance by a satellite provided by a private protection company," Biebel said. About 300,000 people have seen the exhibit.

Beibel estimates that corporate sponsor American Express Co. will spend more than $2 million on the exhibit. The exhibit also is sponsored by the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Constitution Council of the Thirteen Original States Inc. and local organizations.END NOTES

The exhibit will also be in Baltimore Monday and Tuesday, Hagerstown Sept. 4, and at the U.S. Capitol Sept. 14 to 16.