Alchemical texts sorted by date

Newton’s alchemical works are being transcribed by our sister project, The Chymistry of Isaac Newton at the University of Indiana. Links to the material already available on the Chymistry site are provided below. A full listing of the source material it will make available can be found in the Alchemical Papers section of the Newton Project’s online catalogue.

51.

Draft alchemical treatise or compilation.

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: NMAHRB Ms. 1070 A, Dibner Library, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00084

52.

Notebook containing little but headings ('De Sale'; 'Solutio'; 'Conjunctio et Liquefactio'; 'Imbibitio & Calcinatio', etc.), with gaps for entries left blank apart from a few perfunctory notes in Latin.

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Ms. Var. 260, National Library of Israel, Jerusalem, Israel

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00064

53.

'The Epitome of the treasure of health written by Edwardus Generosus Anglicus innominatus who lived Anno Domini 1562'.

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 22, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00011

54.

'Causæ et initia naturalium' (notes on Jan Baptista van Helmont's Ortus medicinae (1667)).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 16, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00005

55.

Three apparently unrelated fragments (early-mid 1670s).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 58, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00047

56.

Two alchemical treatises (one incomplete; after 1686) and a collection of short extracts from various alchemical sources.

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 48, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00037

57.

Short extracts from an assortment of alchemical writers (early to mid-1670s).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 25, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00014

58.

Miscellaneous extracts from and notes on various alchemical authors, in English.

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 20, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00009

59.

Notes on the preparation of 'philosophical mercury' by fermentation and 'ye mediation of Diana's Doves', on the preparation of 'menstrua', etc.

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 34, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00023

60.

Two accounts of alchemical operations (1690s?).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: NMAHRB Ms. 1041 B, Dibner Library, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00083

61.

Three related sets of notes (late 1680s-90s).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: NMAHRB Ms. 1032 B, Dibner Library, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00082

62.

'Epistola ad veros Hermetis discipulos continens claves sex principales Philosophiæ secretæ' (early 1690s).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 23, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00012

63.

'Manna': transcript (1675?) of an anonymous alchemical treatise, in another hand with additions and notes by Newton.

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 33, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00022

64.

Notes on the works of George Ripley [from a manuscript version of 'Eirenæus Philalethes'' Ripley Reviv'd (1678)] (late 1660s/ early 1670s).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 51, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00040

65.

Two sets of notes.

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 12, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00001

66.

Three alchemical excerpts (1668/9).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 36, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00025

67.

Alchemical notes (probably before 18 May 1669), drawn largely if not entirely from Michael Maier's Symbola Aureæ Mensæ duodecim nationum (Frankfurt, 1617: H1048).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 29, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00018

68.

'Liber Mercurioum [sic: leg. 'Mercuriorum'] Corporum' (1668-75).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 31, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00020

69.

'The Work of an old Priest, viz: B.' and other alchemical recipes (late 1660s).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 62, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00051

70.

'Observations of ye matter in ye Glass. Authore Anonymo' (mid-1670s).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 39, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00028

[1]

See Dobbs, 'Newton Manuscripts at the Smithsonian', 107; also H994-1001 for Newton's Lull collection. Bernoulli's letter printed in Brewster (1855), 2: 437-8.

[2]

Largely drawn, with page references, from various other works, principally those of Lull and 'Philalethes' but also Ripley, Snyders, Flamel, Sendivogius, Fabré, Arnoldus de Villanova, Van Helmont and others. Clearly represents an attempt to establish a sequence of operations: 'Opus primum', 'Opus secundum', etc. (cf. Keynes Mss. 40, 41 and Babson Ms. 421); the operations covered here are numbered 1-2 and 6-9). Very rough, heavily reworked draft, several sections incomplete.

Also includes three scraps of unrelated correspondence (1700, 1718, n.d.) and a transcript (in another hand, annotated by Newton) of Bernoulli's letter of 8 April 1717 to Montmort, in French, concerning Newton and Leibniz. These are unmentioned in the rather cursory Sotheby catalogue description of SL66, which gives the total page count as 43 pp.; some or all of the letters are presumably a later addition, though why they have been catalogued together with the foregoing treatise is a mystery.

[3] 42 pp. + 4 pp. of unrelated material.

[4]

in Latin with odd passages in English

[5] 15 ff.

[6]

Copy of an unpublished treatise on the Philosophers' Stone, the 'Animal or Angelicall Stone', the 'Prospective [not 'Perspective' as stated in the Sotheby catalogue] stone or ye magical stone of Moses' and 'ye vegetable or ye growing stone'; concludes with an alchemical poem.

[7] 28 pp.

[8]

in English

[9]

See H751 for Newton's copy of van Helmont's work.

[10] 7 pp.

[11]

in Latin

[12]

Section b) is analysed in detail by Dobbs (Foundations, 167-75), who regards it as 'of extraordinary importance for a study of his [Newton's] alchemical methodology' (ibid., 168), being Newton's attempt to elucidate the symbolism of John de Monte Snyders' The Metamorphosis of the Planets (see Newton's transcript of this text, Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, Yale University). See also the notes on Snyders in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University.

[13]

a) f. 1r Copy of a recipe for multiplying silver (by adding silver, antimony and lead to cinnabar).

b) ff. 2r-5r Notes on 'Aqua Sicca', 'Aquila Iovis' and 'Sceptrum Iovis', with repeatedly reworked recipes for preparing these substances, accompanied by annotations either in parallel columns or at the foot of the page.

c) ff. 6r-8v Notes and recipes derived from an unidentified source, with rough sketches of furnaces and calculations.

[14] 12 pp. on 8 ff.

[15]

in English and Latin

[16]

See H554, 838, 1034, 1296, 1407, 1478, 1553 and 1644 (Newton's 'Philalethes' collection), H168-9 (Trevisanus), H1044-1052 (Maier), H127-130 (Basil Valentine). See also Dobbs, 'Newton's Copy of "Secrets Reveal'd"', 158-9.

[17]

Foliation is continuous through the three sections.

a) Begins with two pages of rough notes in Latin and English. Then comes an incomplete tract in Latin, consisting largely of extracts from other writers but woven into a continuous text, with the following sub-headings:

f. 2r 'Lapidis Compositio'

f. 6r 'Elementorum Conversio Conjunctio et Decoctio in Opere secundo vel utroq[ue]'

f. 10r 'Regimen Ignis'

b) Excerpts, mostly in Latin but with some English:

f. 15v 'Ex Tractatus quinto Rosarij abbreviati'

f. 16r Main heading: 'Materia'. Followed by extracts on the subject 'Ex Philalethi' (f. 16r), 'Ex Trevisano' (f. 18r), 'Ex Grassæ' (f. 19r), 'Ex Epistolo Anonymi in Th. Ch. vol 6 p. 474' (f. 21v), 'Ex Maiero' (also f. 21v), 'Ex Basilio Valentino' (f. 22v), 'Ex Snydero' (f. 23v), 'Iterum ex Basilio Valentino' (f. 24r), 'Ex Rosario Magno' (f. 24v).

c) 'Decoctio': a self-contained treatise or chapter on the 'regimens', in English with some Latin, consisting like a) of interwoven extracts from a huge range of sources. The headings are drawn (in order) from chapters 24-30 of 'Philalethes'' Secrets Reveal'd, as follows:

f. 26r 'Regimen Mercurij'

f. 32r 'Regimen Saturni'

f. 37r 'Regimen Iovis'

f. 45r 'Regimen Lunæ'

f. 51r 'Regimen Veneris Martis et Solis'

Followed (f. 54r to the end) by an earlier partial draft also headed 'Decoctio'.

The whole is enclosed in a wrapper covered with notes and rough drawings of stills, retorts, etc., on which Thomas Pellet has written 'No 13'.

[18] 76 pp. on 62 ff.

[19]

in Latin and English

[20]

Same watermark (with countermark AI) as Mellon Ms. 79 (probably mid-1670s), the essay 'De ære et æthere' (date uncertain but definitely not before 1673), part of the 'Hypothesis' sent to the Royal Society in December 1675, and a letter to Hooke of the same month: see Shapiro, 'Dating Game', 195-6.

[21]

See Dobbs, Foundations, 132 for discussion of the sources and dating of this manuscript. Apart from the first two items, Newton could have taken all this from Zetzner's Theatrum Chemicum. The first five are all based on works of 'Philalethes'. Cf. also Keynes Mss. 14, 29, 36 and Yahuda Ms. Var. 259.

[22]

f. 1r 'Out of Flammel./ The ffirst agent [not 'Angel' as stated in the Sotheby catalogue] painted in Abraham ye Iews 4 Hieroglyphicks', in English. From the same source as Keynes Ms. 14.

f. 1v 'Out of ye Comment[ary] on Ripleys Epistle to K. Edward' [i.e. 'Sir George Ripley's Epistle to King Edward Unfolded' by 'Eirenæus Philalethes'], in English.

f. 2r 'Ex libro de Metallorum Metamorphosi', in Latin.

f. 2v 'Ex Brevi Manuductione ad Rubinum cælestem', in Latin.

'Ex Fonte Chemicæ Philosophiæ', in Latin.

f. 3v 'Iterum ex Comment[ario] in Ripl[æi] Epist[ola] ad Reg[em] Edw[ardum]', in English with one sentence of Latin.

'Ex Epistola Com[itis] Trevisani ad Thom[am] Bonon[iam]', in Latin.

f. 4r 'Ex Artephio', in Latin.

'Ex Turba [i.e. 'Turba Philosophorum']', in Latin.

[23] 7 pp. on 4 ff.

[24]

in English and Latin

[25]

Both verses are copied from Elias Ashmole's Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum (1652: H93), 421-2 and 278-9 respectively, though the notes on the 'Green Lyon', comprising elucidatory cross-references to other alchemical authors, would seem to be Newton's own. (Ashmole's edition does include notes on the work as an appendix, but they are completely different from those in this manuscript.)

[26]

'The standing of ye glass for ye time of Putrefaction & Congelation of ye medecine', in verse, 14 lines; 'The hunting of ye Green Lyon' (an extract), in verse, c. 180 lines; 'Notes upon ye hunting of ye green Lyon', c. 500 words.

[27] 8 pp.

[28]

Abstracted (with copious page references) from various works of 'Eirenæus Philalethes'.

[29] 6 pp. on 3 ff.

[30]

in English

[31]

See Dobbs, 'Newton Manuscripts at the Smithsonian', 106.

[32]

1) 'Separatio Elementorum' (2 pp.). On the distillation of elements in a 20 gallon vat, with references to 'Philalethes' and Albertus Magnus. The large number of corrections and relatively small number of references to other writers may indicate that this is at least partly Newton's own composition.

2) 'Reductio et Sublimatio' (5 pp.). Excerpts and abstracts, principally from Lull, on an imperfect transmutation of white sulphur into silver and red sulphur into gold.

[33] 7 pp.

[34]

in Latin

[35]

See Dobbs, 'Newton Manuscripts at the Smithsonian', 106-7 and 'Newton's Copy of "Secrets Reveal'd"', 159.

[36]

Entitled 'The Regimen' (7 pp.), 'The Regimen', (8 pp.) and 'Of ye Regimen' (2 pp., incomplete). Describe a sequence of (al)chemical operations largely drawn from the works of 'Philalethes', though other authors including Pontanus, Maier and Roger Bacon are cited, especially in the second set of notes. On the loose scrap (which is not mentioned in the Sotheby catalogue, though the manuscript is described as 18 pp. and the catalogue does not normally count blank pages), various alchemical references, with mention of John Day and of Roger Bacon's Elementorum and Michael Maier's Arcana arcanissima, written over and on the reverse of a receipt dated 11 September 1689.

[37] 8 pp. badly discoloured and barely legible.

[38]

in English

[39]

Contains a Strasbourg lily watermark, as does Keynes Ms. 53: see Shapiro, 'Dating Game', 197-8.

[40]

See Dobbs, Janus Faces, 180: she suggests this is probably Newton's own translation. Cf. Keynes Mss. 21 and 53, and Babson Ms. 420.

[41]

A translation of the last section of Limojon de Didier's Triomphe Hermétique (1689), 'Lettre Aux vrays Disciples d'Hermes, Contenant six principales clefs de la Philosophie Secrete', then only extant (in published form, at least) in French (H1642).

[42] 19 pp.

[43]

in Latin

[44]

'Mr F' may be Ezekiel Foxcroft, Fellow of King's College and translator of J.V. Andreæ's Chymische Hochzeit: see Dobbs, Foundations, 111-12 (though the suggestion is disputed by Figala, 'Newton as Alchemist', 103). There is another reference to 'Mr. F.', unequivocally meaning Foxcroft, in 'De Scriptoribus Chemicis', Stanford University Library Ms.: see Figala et al., 'De Scriptoribus', 146-7. Newton's notes clearly date from no earlier than 1675 (the year in which the manuscript was communicated to him), and the handwriting suggests not much later: the preceding text could of course be earlier.

[45]

See Figala, 'Exakte Alchemie', 161, including a partial transcript of Newton's comments. A similar version of the text, but without Newton's additions and commentaries, was published by William Cooper in the anthology Aurifontana Chymica (London, 1680: H103).

[46]

A disquisition on the nature of alchemy, stressing that making gold is the most trivial of its aims. Followed by recipes 'To make all pretious stones better then the Natural', 'To make a Diamant', etc. On f. 5r, in Newton's hand, two further recipes under the headings 'Praxis Lapidis' and 'Multiplication', and then a series of notes on the foregoing text headed 'Here follow several notes & different readings collected out of a M.S. communicated to Mr F. by W.S. in 1670, & by Mr F. to me 1675'. Finally (f. 6r), 'An epitome of the practise of the work', also in Newton's hand.

[47] 11 pp. on 6 ff.

[48]

in English

[49]

Westfall (Never at Rest, 287-8 and 288, n. 21) points out that the notes clearly predate the publication of Ripley Reviv'd (1678). Newton cites page references which do not correspond to the printed version and presumably refer to a now lost or unidentified manuscript. Further examples of Newton's interest in Ripley and his expositors (especially 'Philalethes') in Keynes Mss. 17, 52, 53, 54; he subsequently acquired a copy of the published version of Ripley Reviv'd (H1407).

[50]

Includes sections 'On Ripley's vision', 'On Ripleys preface to his Gates', and on each of the first six 'Gates' (calcination, solution, separation, conjunction, putrefaction and congelation).

[51] 14 pp. on 8 ff.

[52]

in English

[53]

For highly divergent theories about the dating, see Figala, 'Exakte Alchemie', 177 and Dobbs, Foundations, 133.

[54]

A 'Propositions': alchemical notes in Latin, c. 400 words, 3 pp. Apparently Newton's own formulations.

B Miscellaneous notes on multiplication by solution and coagulation, mostly in Latin with some English, c. 2,000 words, 4 pp. Drawn from various (acknowledged) sources including Aristotle, Nicholas Flamel and Michael Maier [Mayer].

[55] 7 pp.

[56]

mainly in Latin

[57]

Taken from Martinus Birrius, Tres Tractatus De Metallorum Transmutatione [...] incognita auctore (Amsterdam 1668: H1641), containing these three compositions, which are in fact by 'Eirenæus Philalethes' (i.e. George Starkey). See Dobbs, Foundations, 131-2.

[58]

'De Metallorum Metamorphosi' (f. 1r), divided into a preface and chapters; 'Brevis Manuductio ad rubinum cœlestem' (f. 3r); 'Fons Chemicæ Philosophiæ' (f. 3v).

[59] 8 pp. on 4 ff.

[60]

in Latin

[61]

See Dobbs, Foundations, 131.

[62]

Begins with half a page in Latin on Hermes Trismegistus. Followed by English notes on the alchemical interpretation of ancient myths, then (ff. 1r-3r) Latin notes on a wide range of alchemical authors and myths, including references to Albertus Magnus, Flamel, the Rosicrucians, Lull and Geber. f. 2r has a diagram of a 'philosophical tree' taken from 'Anonymus Philosophicus Delphicus'. f. 3r has the subheading 'Aurum quot modis crescit & purgatur'. Concludes on f. 5r with 'Symbola 12 Sapientum': a list of the twelve sages who attend Maier's 'Banquet' together with their alchemical mottoes: they are Hermes [Trismegistus], Maria [the Jewess], Democritus, Morienus, Avicenna, Albertus Magnus, Arnoldus [de Villanova], Thomas Aquinas, Raim[undus] Lullius, 'Rocher [i.e. Roger] Bacon', Melchior [Cibinensis] and 'Anonymus Sarmata'.

[63] 9 pp. on 5 ff.

[64]

in Latin and English

[65]

Discussed, with a transcript of two of the recipes and facsimile of the table of symbols, in Dobbs, Foundations, 137-8.

[66]

Seven pages of alchemical recipes followed by a table of (al)chemical symbols. Clearly not Newton's own composition though the source(s) has/have not been identified.

[67] 8 pp. on 4 ff.

[68]

in English

[69]

Evidently abstracted from Keynes Ms. 67.

[70]

Includes directions 'To turne [silver] into [gold]' and for making '[silver] out of [mercury] and [iron]', a recipe for 'aurum potabile', etc., with drawings of retorts, receivers, and other chemical equipment.

[71] 8 pp. on 9 ff. of which one blank.

[72]

in English

[73]

An account of an alchemical experiment, and directions for undertaking another (the latter beginning f. 2r under the heading 'Emanuel'). Presumably transcribed or translated from an unpublished manuscript, and thoroughly non-'mystical' in tone except for the specification (f. 2r) of a prayer for success to be offered before undertaking the experiment and another of thanks to be offered on its successful completion.

[74] 6 pp. on 3 ff.

[75]

in English

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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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