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.

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

Author: Isaac Newton

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

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00020

52.

'Pearce the black Monck upon ye Elixir': an alchemical verse allegory, 226 lines.

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 42, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00031

53.

'Practica Mariæ Prophetissæ in Artem Alchemicam' (early 1690s).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 45, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00034

54.

Chemical notes, partly in another hand.

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: NMAHRB Ms. 1007 B, Dibner Library, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00077

55.

'Several Questions concerning the Ph[ilosoph]ers St[one]'.

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 44, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00033

56.

A similar composition to Keynes Ms. 40, covering the first six 'operations' (but the fourth is missing). In Latin apart from some citations from George Ripley in English verse in the last two sections.

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 41, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00030

57.

'Out of La Lumiere sortant des Tenebres' and 'Out of the Commentator on La Lumiere sortant de Tenebris [sic]' (c. 1687-92), incomplete.

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Yahuda Ms. 30, National Library of Israel, Jerusalem, Israel

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00061

58.

'Sententiæ luciferæ et Conclusiones notabiles' (1696-8?).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 56, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00045

59.

'The method of ye work': a commentary on [A.T. Limojon, Sieur de] Didier's 'Six Keys' (early 1690s?).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 21, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00010

60.

Abstracts of five works by Michael Maier (early 1690s).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 32, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00021

61.

'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

62.

'Clavis': detailed directions for a lengthy alchemical operation beginning with the digestion of antimony, iron and sulphur.

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 18, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00007

63.

'Basil Valentine Currus Triumphalis Antimonij': notes and abstracts (c. 1667-8).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 64, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00053

64.

Four alchemical verse allegories, in English.

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Keynes Ms. 15, King's College, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00004

65.

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

66.

'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

67.

'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

68.

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

Author: Isaac Newton

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

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00047

69.

'Notanda Chymica' (late 1660s).

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: NMAHRB Ms. 1028 B, Dibner Library, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00080

70.

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

[1]

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

[2]

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.

[3] 8 pp. on 4 ff.

[4]

in English

[5]

Copied from Elias Ashmole's Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum (1652: H93), 269-74 and 427-30.

[6] 7 pp. on 4 ff.

[7]

in English with the last four lines in Latin

[8]

See H1608, H90-H91, H221 for the works cited as Newton's sources.

[9]

A dialogue between 'Aros' and 'Maria', the sister of Moses, in which she replies to his queries about acquiring alchemical wisdom. Concludes with the note 'Extat hoc opus in Theat Chem Vol 5 & Vol 6 p 479 [i.e. Lazarus Zetzner's Theatrum Chemicum (1659-61): it is in fact only in vol. 6] & Arte Aurif. vol. 1 et in Bibliotheca Gallica' [i.e. Bibliothèque des philosophes (1672-8): it is in vol. 1].

[10] 4 pp. on 3 ff. of which one blank.

[11]

in Latin

[12]

The first sheet contains a brief alchemical recipe in another hand, copied out again in Newton's. The second has a Latin extract from Basil Valentine on distillation, followed by a related recipe in English, all in Newton's hand.

[13] 2 pp. on 2 ff.

[14]

in English and Latin

[15]

A dialogue between a novice and an adept, each 'Question' being followed by an answer. Transcript or translation of an anonymous unpublished work.

f. 1r 'Quest. 1. Of what kind is the true & only one Philosophical matter'

f. 1v 'Quest. 2. But how ought ye reduction into the first matter to be done.'

f. 2r 'Quest. 3. What is the signe of a perfect fixation and where by can it be known.'

f. 2v 'Quest. 4. But if it should ascend in the said operation what must be done.'

'Quest. 5. What is to be done when the tincture has obteined its perfection.'

f. 3r 'Quest. 6. What ought to be done wth this golden powder'

'Quest. 7. What hereafter'

f. 3v 'Quest. 8. How must the silver be proceeded with'

'Quest. 9. What fire is used in this work'

f. 4r 'Quest. 10. What do you think of the colours of Bernardus.'

'Quest. 11. Is the labour of this work troublesome'

'Quest. 12. Are there no more lyes of the Sophisters.'

[16] 7 pp. on 4 ff.

[17]

in English

[18]

Also features extensive interlinear notes and additions apparently inserted after the main text had been written.

f. 1r 'Opus primum. Extractio \& rectificatio/ spiritus.'

f. 2r 'Opus secundum. Extractio animæ.'

f. 3r 'Opus tertium. Terræ calcinatio'

f. 5r 'Opus quintum./ Acuatio spiritus rectificanti cum rebus calidis sui generis per sublimationes, & conversio in mercurium vegetabilem ut et in Quintessentiam quæ cælum est Philosophorum, et Liquor Alkahest, quocum fit Aurum potabile.'

f. 11r 'Opus sextum. Solutio sicca et humida metallorum vulgi \eorumq[ue] purgatio &/ multiplicatio infinita mercurij sophici et extractio auri vivi.'

[19] 39 pp. on 20 ff.

[20]

The remainder of these notes had become detached before the Sotheby sale and were sold, together with a separate set of notes on the same work, as SL41, which is now Babson Ms. 414 (q.v. for further details).

[21]

The complete text, i.e. Yahuda Var. 1 Ms. 30 and Babson Ms. 414B, is transcribed with very useful introductory notes in Dobbs, Janus Faces, 278-87. H1003 is Newton's copy of the French text.

[22]

Abstracts translated [by Newton?] from La lumière sortant par soy même des tenebres (1687), itself a translation of a Latin translation of and commentary on an original text in Italian verse possibly by Otto Tachenius. The commentary begins on f. 1v. On the 'grand mercury of Philosophers' and analogies between alchemical transmutations and the original Creation. Includes occasional elucidatory notes by Newton in square brackets.

[23] 4 pp.

[24]

in English

[25]

On the first page in identical handwriting is a note relating to the silver recoinage of 1696-8.

[26]

Short extracts from a wide range of alchemical authors.

[27] 18 pp.

[28]

in Latin and English

[29]

Keynes Ms. 23 is a Latin translation of the French original of Didier's work. See Dobbs, Janus Faces, 180-81, and Westfall, Never at Rest, 529. Westfall argues that this manuscript and Keynes Ms. 53 represent the first steps, taken in the early 1690s, that led ultimately to the major essay 'Praxis' (Babson Ms. 420).

[30] 35 pp.

[31]

in English with Latin citations

[32]

See Westfall, Never at Rest, 524, and H1044, 1046, 1048 and 1052.

[33]

On the cover in Thomas Pellet's hand: 'No 17'.

a) 'Symbola aureæ mensæ duodecim nationum, Authore Michaele Majero. Dat. Francofurti mense Decemb. 1616. Edit Francofurti 1617. Anno ætatis Majeri 49', including copies by Newton of two of Maier's alchemical emblems, 20 pp.

b) 'Lusus Serius. Authore Mich. Majero Com. Pal. Med. D. Dat. 1616 mense Septembri', 4 pp.

c) 'Atalanta fugiens, hoc est Emblemata nova &c. Dat Francofurti mens. Aug. 1617. Edit 1618', 24 pp.

d) 'Viatorium, hoc est De montibus Planetarum septem. Datum Francofurti ad Mœn. 1618. mense Septembri. Edit Rothomagi 1651', 16 pp.

e) 'Septimana Philosophica. Dat. Magdeburgi Anno 1620, Ian. 11 styl. vet.', 24 pp.

[34] 88 pp.

[35]

in Latin

[36]

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.

[37] 6 pp. on 3 ff.

[38]

in English

[39]

Printed with an English translation in Dobbs, Foundations, 251-5. This was long regarded by Dobbs and many others as probably Newton's own work, but was in fact copied from an unpublished manuscript of George Starkey: see Newman, 'Newton's "Clavis"' (and Dobbs's acknowledgment of the reattribution, Janus Faces, 15).

[40] 3 pp.

[41]

in Latin

[42]

See Dobbs (who suggests the date), Foundations, 191, and H129 (a heavily dog-eared English translation of the work, though these notes were obvious based on a Latin edition).

[43]

Includes (in square brackets) a very few explicatory notes by Newton.

[44] 8 pp. on 4 ff.

[45]

in Latin

[46]

These are all taken from Elias Ashmole's Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum (1652: H93), 305-23, 393-6, 436 and 434 respectively.

[47]

'Out of Bloomfield's Blossoms' (an excerpt, beginning 'Father Time set me at ye gate'), 212 lines; 'A short work that beareth the name of Sr George Ripley', 92 lines (almost complete); and two 'Fragments', one untitled (beginning 'Let ye old man drink wine till he piss'), 8 lines, and the other headed 'The whole science', 11 lines.

[48] 8 pp.

[49]

See Dobbs, Foundations, 131.

[50]

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'.

[51] 9 pp. on 5 ff.

[52]

in Latin and English

[53]

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

[54] 7 pp.

[55]

in Latin

[56]

Evidently abstracted from Keynes Ms. 67.

[57]

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.

[58] 8 pp. on 9 ff. of which one blank.

[59]

in English

[60]

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.

[61]

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.

[62] 12 pp. on 8 ff.

[63]

in English and Latin

[64]

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

[65]

Notes and extracts, with page references, chiefly from Michael Maier's Arcana arcanissima, though there is also reference to the 'Rosarium Philosophorum' from Zetzner's Theatrum Chemicum.

[66] 5 pp. (though there is only one word and a page reference on p. 5).

[67]

in Latin

[68]

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

[69] 6 pp. on 3 ff.

[70]

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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