This manuscript, presented to Elizabeth I during a visit to Oxford in 1566, is written as a dialogue between the queen and her favorite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and chancellor of Oxford. It also serves as a guide to the university, with drawings of its buildings. The author is Thomas Neale, Regius Professor of Hebrew, who wrote the Latin text and a concluding salutation in Hebrew. The book opens with the image of the tree of Hebrew learning and a verse addressed to Elizabeth, asking her to fund the study of the language at Oxford. Alas, the queen did not take the hint, and no endowment was forthcoming.
Translation by Sarah Knight
Do you see how this tree flourishes when its roots are secure?
How it is enriched by its leaves spreading here and there?
The tree is an image of Hebrew learning, which rejoices to have had its leaves enriched
By your financial generosity, Elizabeth.
God as sower first planted this tree in Paradise.
He ordered mortals to speak Hebrew words.
Once upon a time your distinguished father brought this [tree of learning] here,
You, devout Elizabeth, water the roots.
And so the tree brings forth this fruit appropriate to you,
Cultivated (O greatest of Princes) by what you have spent.
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