Browse texts by category: Newton’s Notebooks

1.

Fitzwilliam Notebook

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00069

2.

Pierpont Morgan Notebook

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: MA 318, The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, USA

Newton Catalogue ID: NATP00001

3.

Mathematical Notebook

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: MS Add. 4000, Cambridge University Library, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: NATP00128

4.

Newton's Waste Book (Part 1)

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: MS Add. 4004, ff. {cover}-15r, Cambridge University Library, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: NATP00220

5.

Newton's Waste Book (Part 2)

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: MS Add. 4004, ff. 15v-50r, Cambridge University Library, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: NATP00221

6.

Newton's Waste Book (Part 3)

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: MS Add. 4004, ff. 50v-198v, Cambridge University Library, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: NATP00222

7.

Trinity College Notebook

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: R.4.48c, Trinity College Library, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: PERS00001

8.

'Quæstiones quædam Philosophiæ' ('Certain Philosophical Questions')

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: MS Add. 3996, Cambridge University Library, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: THEM00092

9.

Theological Notebook (Part 1)

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 2, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: THEM00180

10.

Theological Notebook (Part 2)

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 2, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: THEM00181

[1]

Miscellaneous notebook containing Newton's accounts for 1665-9, a series of increasingly complicated mathematical problems, and a highly revealing personal confession. At Whitsun 1662, Newton compiled a list of all the 47 sins he could remember having committed in his life, from stealing cherries to "threatning my [step]father and mother ... to burne them and the house over them". The accounts section charts the beginning of his study of alchemy in 1669, with purchases of books, materials and a furnace to equip the makeshift laboratory he set up in the grounds of Trinity College.

[2]

Described and partly published in Brewster (1855), 1: 31-3. The shorthand section deciphered and discussed in Westfall, 'Short-Writing and the State of Newton's Conscience, 1662'.

[3]

Contains expense lists, a confession of Newton's sins, and miscellaneous problems in mathematics and physics

Flyleaf inscribed 'Isaac Newton/ pret. 8d'. This is followed by a sequence of letters (the key to a cipher?), reading:

'Nabed Efyhik

Wfnzo Cpmfke'.

The book proper begins with shorthand notes on 3 pp., dated 1662, and detailing Newton's sins before and after Whitsunday of that year. Then follows a list of expenses, 7 pp., dated from 23 May 1665 to April 1669 (about 140 entries), including assorted chemicals, two furnaces and a copy of the Theatrum chemicum [ed. Lazarus Zetzner, 1659-61: H1608] bought in April 1669. On f. 10v another hand has listed the names of four German noblemen.

The other end of the book begins with 'Nova Cubi Hebræi Tabella' on 1 p., followed by various problems in geometry and the conic sections (ellipsis, parabola, hyperbole, etc.), with diagrams, 24 pp. On the back flyleaf in Thomas Pellet's hand: 'Sep 25 1727/ Not fit to be printed/ T Pellet'.

[4] 34 pp. on 118 ff.

[5]

in English

[6]

Described and partially published (as far as the conjuring tricks), with selected facsimiles of the later pages, in D.E. Smith, 'Two Unpublished Documents of Isaac Newton', 16-31. One very brief shorthand entry ('A remedy for a Ague') is deciphered in Westfall, 'Short Writing', 13. The word-lists are based on Francis Gregory's school text-book Nomenclatura brevis anglo-Latinis (1654), though with some interesting and (debatably) suggestive additions and variants: see Manuel, Portrait, 11-12, 27, 30, 34, 37, 69-70, 397-8.

[7]

Pocket memorandum notebook covering the end of Newton's schooldays and the beginning of his university career.

On the first leaf (in Newton's hand): 'Isacus Newton hunc librum possidet teste Edwardo Secker pret: 2d ob. 1659'. Contains technical advice on drawing, various medical recipes, instructions for performing conjuring tricks, astronomical charts, accounts of Copernican astronomy and 'Drebles Motion' [i.e. the supposed perpetual motion machine of Cornelius Drebbel], mathematical exercises, notes on universal character, and several lists of words, under assorted subject headings, beginning with the same letter.

One of four notebooks, with those in Trinity College Library, Cambridge University Library and the Fitzwilliam Museum, which supply the main source of evidence about Newton's interests and activities during his early years at Cambridge.

[8] 58ff.

[9]

in English

[10] 170 pp.

[11]

[12] 33 pp.

[13] Newton's Waste Book (Part 2) [MS Add. 4004, ff. 15v-50r] MS Add. 4004

[14]

[15] 38 pp.

[16] Newton's Waste Book (Part 3) [MS Add. 4004, ff. 50v-198v] MS Add. 4004 Newton's Waste Book (Part 1) [MS Add. 4004, ff. {cover}-15r]

[17]

[18] 187 pp.

[19] MS Add. 4004 Newton's Waste Book (Part 2) [MS Add. 4004, ff. 15v-50r]

[20]

[21]

Newton's undergraduate accounts book, giving a fascinating insight into his lifestyle as a student. Though generally frugal, he records occasional indulgences: beer and wine, a visit to the tennis court, and a surprisingly large outlay on cherries. The notebook also reveals that he was operating a money-lending operation for his fellow students.

[22]

See Brewster (1855), 1: 17-18.

[23]

Contains Newton's expense accounts from 19 March 1659 (i.e. 1660?) through his early years at Cambridge.

On the cover: a fragment in shorthand. Inscribed on the first page: 'Quisquis in hunc librum teneros conjecit ocellos./ Nomen subscriptum perlegat ipse meum./ Isaac Newton. Martij 19 1659.' pp. 3-38 consist of a guide to Latin pronunciation headed 'Vtilissimvm prosodiae svpplementvm'. Then follow 13 pp. of personal expenses under the headiings 'Impensa Propria' and 'Otiose & frustra expensa'.

[24] 50pp.

[25]

in Latin and English

[26]

The notebook has been written from both ends: the expenses listed on pp. i-xii are written from the back of the book, the remaining pages from the front. The expenses are here placed first as they are much the most interesting part of the document.

[27]

Folio 2 of the Latin textbook appears to have been bound out of sequence; it clearly belongs between folios 8 and 9, and is placed there in the transcription.

[28]

This undergraduate notebook charts the beginnings of Newton's scientific career. Ignoring the traditional Aristotelian curriculum, Newton packed his private notebook with analyses and criticisms of the latest theories in mathematics, optics and physics, together with a wide range of his own 'philosophical questions'.

[29]

The last section (ff. 87-135) is reproduced (in both diplomatic and modernised transcriptions), with an extensive introduction and commentary, in McGuire and Tamny, Certain Philosophical Questions (text on pp. 329-465). See also the detailed discussion in Westfall, Never at Rest, 89-97.

[30]

On front flyleaf: 'Isaac Newton/ Trin: Coll Cant/ 1661', and, in Thomas Pellet's hand: Sep. 25 1727/ Not fit to be printed/ T: Pellet'. Written from both ends: the foliation, which was added later (probably by University Library staff) starts from the front (30 ff. including the front flyleaf as f. 1) and resumes from the back (ff. 31-140).

ff. 3-15 Greek notes from Aristotle's Organon.

ff. 16-26r Latin notes from Johannes Magirus's Physiologiæ peripateticæ.

ff. 26v-30v English notes on astronomy.

[from back of book:]

ff. 34r-81v Greek and Latin notes from various sources.

ff. 83r-v English notes on Descartes.

ff. 87r-135r 'Questiones quædam Philosophcæ [sic]', in English. Notes on a huge range of topics relating to natural philosophy and reflecting the development of Newton's personal and largely extra-curricular interests during his student years. Some of the last entries ('Of God', f. 128, 'Of ye Creation', f. 129, 'Of ye soule', f. 130) introduce a theological note.

[31] 140 ff. of which 13 blank.

[32]

in Greek, Latin and English

[33]

[34]

The first of two parts of one of Isaac Newton's notebooks. It contains his thoughts on a wide range of religious topics, including idolatry, the nature of Christ, Christ's relationship with God and the central differences between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.

[35] Theological Notebook (Part 2) [Keynes Ms. 2] Keynes Ms. 2

[36] Keynes Ms. 2 Theological Notebook (Part 1) [Keynes Ms. 2]

© 2020 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 - newtonproject@history.ox.ac.uk

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