The Bodleian Plate is a copperplate depicting several colonial buildings of eighteenth-century Williamsburg, Virginia, as well as several types of native flora, fauna, and American Indians. Following its 1929 rediscovery in the archives of the Bodleian Library, it was used extensively in John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s reconstruction of Colonial Williamsburg. The plate has been tied to Williamsburg resident William Byrd II and may have been produced by English illustrator Eleazar Albin and engraver John Carwitham.
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The top third of the image depicts the campus of the College of William and Mary in Virginia looking west. Labeled "1" and to the left (to the right on the plate itself) is the Brafferton, a school for American Indians. Visible in the center–labeled "2"–is the eastern side of the Wren Building, then often known simply as "the College". The building labeled "3" on the right is the President's House. Topiary surrounding the buildings is also visible in the top panel.
The center third of the plate again depicts the Wren Building in the middle, this time from a perspective to the southwest with the chapel wing in the foreground. To the left of the print is an eastern-facing perspective of the Capitol as it appeared before a 1747 fire. The right-center image depicts the Governor's Palace and associated structures in a north-facing perspective from above the Palace Green.
The bottom third is ten separate images. Among them are plants and animals from Virginia and nearby. Labeled "16", a lined seahorse–a native species of the Chesapeake Bay–is depicted. Additionally, two images of local Indians flank both sides of the bottom portion.
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The Bodleian Plate is so-named for its discovery in the archives of the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford in England. The copperplate was bequeathed to the library as part of the collection of Richard Rawlinson, a nonjuring Church of England clergyman and antiquarian who died in April 1755. His donation to the library totaled over one million books, manuscripts, and engravings–all of which had been originally willed to the Society of Antiquaries before a falling-out.
Efforts to rebuild the Wren Building to its colonial appearance began in 1928 as part of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s broader efforts to restore Williamsburg. The project had been in part the brainchild of W.A.R. Goodwin, the Episcopal rector of Bruton Parish. In December 1929, researcher Mary F. Goodwin located and recognized the Bodleian Plate as depicting colonial-era Williamsburg, Virginia.
The discovery proved instrumental in the reconstruction of the Wren Building–for which no other complete colonial depiction of the western side existed. Prior to the discovery of the plate, much of what renovation was planned came from descriptions written by Thomas Jefferson, an alumnus of the college. It also helped in the reconstruction of all four other structures depicted, particularly the Governor's Palace and its outbuildings.
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Source: "Bodleian Plate", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2022, December 14th), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodleian_Plate.
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College of William & Mary
Bruton Parish Church
Governor's Palace (Williamsburg, Virginia)
James Blair (clergyman)
Capitol (Williamsburg, Virginia)
History of Williamsburg, Virginia
History of the College of William & Mary
History of Hampton Roads
J. A. C. Chandler
President's House (College of William & Mary)
- ^ a b c "Illustration of Williamsburg buildings, flora and fauna (not titled)". The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
- ^ a b c Erickson, Mark St. John (30 September 2018). "Bodleian Plate opened window on lost Williamsburg". Daily Press. Williamsburg, VA. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
- ^ Lounsbury, Carl (2000). "Ornaments of Civic Aspiration: The Public Buildings of Williamsburg". In Robert P. Maccubbin (ed.). Williamsburg, Virginia: A City Before the State, 1699–1999. Williamsburg, VA. p. 30.
- ^ a b "The Bodleian Print". wm.edu. Williamsburg, VA: The College of William and Mary in Virginia. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
- ^ Pelton, Tom. "Lined Seahorse". Save the Bay. Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Retrieved 8 June 2021.
- ^ Tashjian, David R.; Enright, Brian J. (1990). Richard Rawlinson: A Tercentenary Memorial. Western Michigan University.
- ^ Wertenbaker, Thomas Jefferson (1950). "The Restoring of Colonial Williamsburg". The North Carolina Historical Review. 27 (2): 218–232. JSTOR 23515749. Retrieved 24 July 2022.
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