For the first six centuries from the institution's foundation, Latin was the language spoken and written at the University of Oxford. It's no surprise, then, to find that the inscriptions carved into the monuments, colleges and municipal buildings of the city are for the most part also in Latin. It is also a language which lends itself to compression, so an inscription in Latin uses fewer characters than English, for example, saving space and money. But what do they all mean?
For this book Reginald Adams has assembled, translated and explained a wide selection of Oxford's Latin inscriptions (and a few Greek ones). These can be found in many accessible places in both city and university, dating from the medieval period to the present day. Their purposes range from tributes and memorials to decorations and witty commentaries on the edifice that they adorn. The figures commemorated include Queen Anne, Roger Bacon, Cardinal Wolsey, Cecil Rhodes, T. E. Lawrence and a kind landlady who provided `enormous breakfasts', as well as other eminent scholars and generous benefactors. These evocative mementos of the past bring insight to the informed observer of their surroundings and also vividly illustrate the history of Oxford.
Reginald H. Adams was a scholar of St John's College, Oxford in the 1930s. He began his career as a schoolmaster, served in the Royal Artillery throughout the Second World War and was for thirty years one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools. He was the author of 'The College Graces of Oxford and Cambridge' (2013).