Witherspoon's five books

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The Scottish sculptor Alexander Stoddart (born 1959) created a 10-foot-tall bronze statue of our sixth president, John Witherspoon (1723-1794), which was unveiled in 2001 on the Princeton University campus east of East Pyne. It is described as “Witherspoon in vigorous middle age, preaching at a symbolic lectern on which an open Bible rests.

The shaft of the lectern is in the form of a “fasces,” a bundle of rods inset with rising arrows bound by two horizontal tapes. The fasces represents Witherspoon’s activities as a statesman. The Bible and Witherspoon’s pose portray his role as a clergyman. An eagle, positioned at the top of the fasces and under the Bible, symbolizes both the state and the church.”

At his feet are five books. Four have their spines to the front, so that we can see they are the works of Cicero, Principia, Locke, and Hume. What is the fifth book? (Why Newton isn’t listed instead of his book, Principia, is a question for another time). We finally climbed to the top of the 7-foot-7-inch plinth on which the statue stands to look behind Witherspoon’s feet.

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The answer: the sculptor never finished the carving of the backs of the books. Or in the case of the fifth book, the spine, so we will never know what Witherspoon’s fifth book is.
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1 Comment

I think the unfinished book as an open question to the viewer - what would fit best? I say Descartes, as he inspired Locke who instigated Hume to continue the questioning of perception and self.