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(Click on image to enlarge.)
click here to enlarge "1709 - 1809"
oil on panel 30 x 24 inches
Donated to Downing College by Downing alumnus


In the foreground of this Neo-Classical composition we have a section by William Wilkins of the West End of Downing College Chapel, which was, however, never built and there was no purpose-built chapel until 1953. His architectural designs for Downing College, which had been founded in 1800, date from 1806-1811.

To the left we have a letter written by William Wilberforce in 1792 to Bryan Edwards, a planter and politician. Wilberforce sends Edwards reports of Parliamentary debates on the slave trade and hopes that he will come round to supporting the abolition of the slave trade.

Below the letter is the teacup from William Wordsworth's breakfast set. The cup was given to Wordsworth by Sir George Howland Beaumont, the art patron and painter. Wordsworth used it from 1816 until his death in 1850.

The teacup is sitting on a copy of volume three of Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu's Oeuvres, printed in Amsterdam and Leipzig in 1758. The volume was given to St. John’s by Hugh Gatty in 1945.

Above this small grouping is a copy of John Flamsteed’s Historiae coelestis libri duo (London, 1712) - this was the first edition, printed without Flamsteed's consent, of what was to become the Historia coelestis Britannica.

Above is a Culpeper-type compound microscope, by John Cuff, England, c. 1745 (Wh.1787, Whipple Museum). Culpeper type microscopes are compound microscopes. The compound microscope was developed during the 17th Century and was closely related to the refracting telescope. Its popularity increased after the publication in 1665 of Robert Hooke’s (1635-1703) Micrographia, containing detailed pictures, never before seen, of insects magnified using a compound microscope.

The horizontal book below the microscope is William Law’s A serious call to a devout and holy life (London, 1729). The book behind the microscope is Christopher Smart’s Poems on several occasions (London, 1752) .

To the left we find a sand glass, 18th or 19th century (Wh.0363, Whipple Museum). This glass has been repaired in such a way that its running time cannot now be measured, but from its dimensions is probably a two- minute glass. Such simple methods of marking time were used when ‘streaming’ the ship’s log. The wooden log, attached to its rope, was thrown overboard; the frame was set with the upper glass full, and the rope was paid out as the ship sailed forwards. When the upper glass was empty, the sailor measured the length of rope paid out during that two minutes. From this, he could calculate the ship’s speed in nautical miles (knots) per hour.

The sandglass sits on eight volumes of the original nine of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (London, 1759-1767).

The marble bust is of Richard Bentley was born in Oulton in 1662 and attended St John's College in Cambridge, graduating BA in 1680 and MA in 1683. He then moved to Wadham College in Oxford where he worked on Greek authors, beginning to acquire his reputation as the greatest English classicist. In 1693 he became keeper of the king's libraries and in 1695 he became chaplain-in-ordinary to William III and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society. In December 1699 he was named Master of Trinity, a position he held until his death in 1742.
Bentley's tenure of the lodge was marked by terrible disagreements with the fellowship, partly from his wish to modernise the college, but exacerbated by his contempt for much of the fellowship and his own arrogance. Two great legal cases wound through the church courts as the anti-Bentley faction tried to rid themselves of the Master, and for his last few years he clung on by his fingernails, but he is Trinity's longest-serving master.
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