Catalogue Entry: ALCH00017

Translation and transcription of the Tabula Smaragdina of 'Hermes Trismegistus', with notes (early 1680s-1690s).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 28, King's College, Cambridge, UK

[Normalized Text (at Chymistry of Isaac Newton)]

Custodial History

Bought at the Sotheby sale by Maggs Brothers for £10 and sold to Keynes on 19 August 1936 for the sale price plus 20%.

Sotheby Lot



f. 2r-v 'Tabula Smaragdina Hermetis Trismegistri [sic] Philosophorum patris': English translation of the Tabula Smaragdina followed by references to the 'ffrench Bibliotheque' [i.e. Bibliothèque des philosophes (1672-8): see notes to the previous entry] and Zetzner's Theatrum Chemicum.

f. 6r 'Hermes Trismegisti opera Chemica./ Tabula Smaragdina': the same passage in Latin.

ff. 6v-7r 'Commentarium': Latin notes on the above.

(ff. 1r and 5r both have the heading 'Hermes' but no text: according to Dobbs these were originally cover sheets for what are now the English sections of Keynes Mss. 27 and 28; the other leaves are blank.)


Described in the Sotheby catalogue as '4 pp.', presumably meaning 4 written leaves, since all three parts of the document are listed there.

Transcribed with notes in Dobbs, Janus Faces, 271-7. She argues, mainly on the basis of the handwriting, that the document was composed as follows: f. 6r copied from a Latin version in the early 1680s, followed immediately or not long afterwards by what she considers to be Newton's own 'Commentarium' (ff. 6r-7r); the English translation (f. 2r-v) in the late 1680s or early 1690s (from French: cf. notes to Keynes Ms. 27) and the following annotations (f. 2v) later still, possibly even post-1700. These suggestions are repeated, with some modification, from her earlier article 'Newton's Commentary on the Emerald Tablet', which also includes a transcript of the English translation (183-4). See also notes to Keynes Ms. 27.

Another copy of the Latin text in Keynes Ms. 60, f. 6r. See H84.

© 2019 The Newton Project

Professor Rob Iliffe
Director, AHRC Newton Papers Project

Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

Faculty of History, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2RL -

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