WILLIAMSBURG -- Oxford University has given to 19th century stained glass windows to the College of William and Mary to commemorate the bicentennial next year of the beginning of the nation's oldest chair of law.

The early birthday gift to William and Mary's Marshall-Wythe School of Law depicts Sir William Blackstone and Sir Christopher Wren. For many years the windows were at All Souls College.

Blackstone was the first occupant, in 1763, of the Vinerian chair of law at Oxford that became Thomas Jefferson's model for the chair "of law and police" established at William and Mary in 1779 at his urging.

Wren is credited with providing the sketches for the first William and Mary building, which bears his name. It was begun in 1695, two years after the school was charted.

William B. Spong Jr., dean of the law school, indicated yesterday that the gift was especially appropriate in that it renews the ties between William and Mary and Oxford and recognizes the connection between the two earlier chairs of law.

The windows were offered by Oxford a year ago, but it took time for arrangements to be completed. There was even an exchange of telegrams in Latin.

Dr. William F. Swindler, John Marshall. professor of law at William and Mary, initiated correspondence in January 1977 with John Simmons, head of the Codrington Law Library at Oxford, exploring appropriate means for a joint observance of the 200th anniversary of the creation of the William and Mary law school.

Discussions continued for several months and finally the All Souls faculty formally voted to make the gift of the two windows.

Then, Simmons informed the law school in Williamsburg, "Lente damus sed bis dabimus," which is translated as "We are giving belatedly but we are giving twice."

"Many Thanks"

After a check with Swindler, John Bridges, a visiting professor from England's Exeter University, and Dr. Ward Jones, professor of classical studies at William and Mary, the law school acknowledged the gift saying, "Maximas Gratias in re duarum fenestrarum," or "Many thanks for the two windows."

Spong said, "It probably wasn't the best classical Latin, but it let our Oxford friends know we got the message."

The windows, created by a London studio, were originally part of a series of panels depicting famous alumni of All Souls. In 1939, on the eve of World War II, the windows were removed to protect them from possible bomb damage. They were never reinstalled.

Since plans for the building for Marshall-Wythe were still being developed when Oxford offered the gift, the architects were able to plan for them to be incorporated in the structure, which is now under construction.

The windows, 4 feet by 6 feet each, will be set in an interior wall of a second-floor gallery overlooking a court.

Spong said that for insurance purposes the only value that would be placed upon them was reproduction value, which was more than $15,000.

"The intrinsic value is estimated to be much, much more," he added.


Wilford Kale

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News Article

Publication Information

Richmond Times-Dispatch at B-1 (July 14, 1978)