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Oxford Inscriptions: Bodleian Library


Pembroke statue

This bronze statue of William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke (1580–1630) stands in front of the main entrance to the Old Bodleian Library, looking east across the Schools Quadrangle. It is Grade II listed, weights about 1600 lb, and was sculpted by Hubert Le Sueur It orginally stood in the family seat of Wilton House in Wiltshire.

The crest of the University on the left-hand side of the plinth (left and below) is a curiosity, as the open book has the top-right corner turned down:

Dog-eared book

William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke was Chancellor of the University of Oxford from 1617 until his death at the age of 50 on 10 April 1630. As well as promoting the foundation of Pembroke College in 1624, he donated many manuscripts to the Bodleian Library in 1629.

In 1723 the 8th Earl of Pembroke transferred the statue to the Bodleian Library from the family home at Wilton in Wiltshire. Originally it stood indoors in the Bodleian Picture Gallery on the third floor: this photograph shows it there in the 1890s, and this one in 1929. It was moved to its present position in 1950.

The four sides of the plinth have two inscriptions and two crests. The inscription starts on the back and reads:

Back of pedestal

GULIELMUS PEMBROCHIAE
COMES
REGNANTIBUS JACOBO ET CAROLO PRIMIS
HOSPITII REGII
CAMERARIUS ET SENESCALLUS
 ACADEMIAE OXONIENSIS
CANCELLARIUS MUNIFICENTISSIMUS

William, [3rd] Earl of Pembroke, Chamberlain and Steward of the Royal Household in the reign of James I and Charles I, and most munificent Chancellor of the University

The inscription continues on the front of the plinth (shown below), thereby giving more prominence to the donor (the 8th Earl) than the honorand (the 3rd Earl).

 

Continuation of inscription

HANC
PATRUI SUI MAGNI EFFIGIEM
AD FORMAM QUAM TINXIT
PETRUS PAULUS RUBENS
AERE FUSO EXPRESSAM
ACADEMIAE OXONIENSI
D.D.
[= dedit et dedicavit]
THOMAS PEMBROCHIAE ET MONTGOM.
COMES
HONORUM ET VIRTUTUM
HAERES
A.D. MDCCXXIII

Thomas, [8th] Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, inheritor of his [the 3rd Earl's] titles and qualities, gave and dedicated to the University of Oxford this statue of his great-uncle cast in bronze in the form that Peter Paul Rubens had painted. A.D. 1723

Front of plinth

On the right-hand side of the plinth is this escutcheon of the Earl of Pembroke, with sixteen quarterings, ensigned with an Earl's Coronet, and encircled with the Garter bearing the motto “HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE” (“Evil to him who evil thinks”)

An unrelated plaque above the doorway just behind the statue reads:

QUOD FELICITER VORTAT
ACADEMICI OXONIENS
[ES]
BIBLIOTHECAM HANC
VOBIS REIPUBLICAEQUE
LITERATORUM
T.B.P.
[=Thomas Bodley posuit]

"Thomas Bodley placed this library here for you, Oxford academics, and for the commonwealth of educated men: may it turn out happily"

 

Stephanie Jenkins, 2013