Thanks to Professor Frank Manasek (1998), an Old Member of the College from Vermont, Linacre has a wonderful and innovative sundial. Frank and his wife Anne saw the Rom Harré Garden when it was just a building site, and were inspired to make a gift, Frank commenting, “A walled garden is something very dear to me”. Frank has designed and built sundials, so comes from a background of substantial knowledge. He generously commissioned Bill Nutt, a Vermont-based engineer-turned-sculptor; a member of the New England Sculptors Association, Bill’s sculpture appears in various private collections along the eastern seaboard, from Maryland to NYC to northern New England, and in the United Kingdom.
The sundial, a reclining one, is made of red South African granite, with the pedestal in Vermont granite, ‘Absolute Black’, with a honed finish. The work involved close discussion with Linacre, to ensure exact siting and size. The entire red granite “book” is the sundial proper but Bill integrated the dial and pedestal so the two pieces actually form a single coherent piece of sculpture. A book seemed an ideal gnomon for Linacre; the dial is patterned after a Nuremberg Chronicle (Liber Chronicarum) in Frank’s possession that resides in an early 17th-century binding. There are a number of intentional inherent subtexts – the obvious symbolism of the book and basing the design on an early codex is a respect for antecedent learning. Bill’s suggestion of using granite rather than marble (his favourite stone) because marble’s lifespan would be a hundred years or so whereas granite’s is measured in thousands, is a statement of confidence for the future: of Oxford, Linacre and learning. Bill, a graduate of Dartmouth College, notes that one of that college’s earliest artifacts is a magnificent dial presented to the then-young school by Samuel Holland, HM Surveyor-General during the late colonial period. That dial was made by Heath & Wing, perhaps London’s most famous makers of the period. So in a roundabout way a “loyal son of Dartmouth” has completed the circle by creating a dial for a very young college in England. The dial is very much American, with comingled foreign (African) and native granite (dug from our hills) parts. Dial is a true international – as is the student body at Linacre. Frank’s hope is that this newest of Oxford sundials will add a new element to the existing collection across the city.