Newton’s Notebooks

Sorted by date

1.

Pierpont Morgan Notebook

Author: Isaac Newton

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

Newton Catalogue ID: NATP00001

2.

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

Author: Isaac Newton

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

Newton Catalogue ID: THEM00092

3.

Trinity College Notebook

Author: Isaac Newton

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

Newton Catalogue ID: PERS00001

4.

Fitzwilliam Notebook

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: ALCH00069

5.

Mathematical Notebook

Author: Isaac Newton

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

Newton Catalogue ID: NATP00128

6.

Newton's Waste Book

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: MS Add. 4004, Cambridge University Library, Cambridge, UK

Newton Catalogue ID: NATP00176

7.

Theological Notebook

Author: Isaac Newton

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

Newton Catalogue ID: THEM00002

[1]

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partially published (as far as the conjuring tricks), with selected facsimiles of the later pages, in D.E. Smith, 'Two Unpublished Documents of Isaac Newton', 16-31.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.

[2]

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.

[3] 58ff.

[4]

in English

[5]

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'.

[6]

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.

[7]

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.

[8] 140 ff. of which 13 blank.

[9]

in Greek, Latin and English

[10]

[11]

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.

[12]

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

[13]

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'.

[14] 50pp.

[15]

in Latin and English

[16]

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.

[17]

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.

[18]

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.

[19]

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'.

[20]

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'.

[21] 34 pp. on 118 ff.

[22]

in English

[23] 170 pp.

[24]

[25] 2181 ff.

[26] Newton's Waste Book (Part 1) Newton's Waste Book (Part 2) Newton's Waste Book (Part 3)

[27]

Somewhat arbitrarily selected excerpts and summaries published in McLachlan, Theological Manuscripts, 127-41.

[28]

The contents are written on 107 pp. starting from the front of the book and 25 pp. (on 42 sheets, of which about half have been left blank for subsequent additions) starting from the back. Between these two sections a large portion (over half) of the notebook is left unused.

On the inner back cover, in Thomas Pellet's hand: 'Sep. 25 1727 Not fit to be printed Tho: Pellet.' To the left of this, in Newton's hand: 'Fr Massam at Oats neare Highlaver Parish near Harlow'. On the flyleaf, a single entry under the heading 'Sentences': 'A man may imagin things that are fals but he can onely understand things yt are true, for if ye things be fals, the apprehension of them is not understanding'. On the back of this is a table of contents which refers not to the entries that follow it but to those beginning at the other end of the notebook. Below this is a list of historical writers, mostly with the dates and in some cases with the location of their works. Against some of the names is the note 'Trin. Coll.', followed in some cases by a shelf-mark.

The entries from this end of the notebook proceed as follows. 'Interpretations' (f. I) has exegetical notes on Revelation in Latin. The subsequent entries are in English and consist primarily of citations from the Authorized Bible under the following headings: 'Mores Gentium' (f. II); 'Religio Ethnica. Idololatria' (f. V); 'Deus Pater' (f. XI); 'Deus Filius' (f. XII); 'Christi Incarnatio' (f. XIV); 'Christi Passio, Descensus, et Resurrectio' (f. XVII); 'Christi Satisfactio, & Re\de/mptio viri' (f. XXII); 'Spiritus Sanctus Deus' (f. XXIV), 'Of the holy ghost his nature and gifts' (f. XXV); 'Angeli boni et mali' (f. XXVII); 'Prædestinatio' (f. XXXI).

Several pages consist only of headings to which no text has been added: 'Religio Ethnica. Dij Gentium' (f. IV); 'Religio Ethnica. Ritus gentiles' (f. VIII); 'Religio christiana/ Deus. Attributa dei' (f. X); 'Christi \vita et/ Miracula' (f. XV); 'Christi Descensus Resurrectio et Ascensus' (f. XVIII), 'Christi Resurrectio' (f. XIX); 'Christi Ascentio' (f. XX); 'Christi adventus secundus' (f. XXI); 'Christi Intercessio' (f. XXIII); 'Homo. Status Naturæ et Gratiæ' (f. XXIX); 'Liberum arbitrium' (f. XXXII); 'Electio' (f. XXIII); 'Benevolentia Dei in Hominem' (f. XXXIV); 'Hominis officium et Qualificatio' (f. XXXV); 'Vitia' (f. XXXVIII); 'Mors Vitia' (f. XXXVIII); 'Mors & Resurrectio' (f. XXXIX); 'Vltimum Iudicium' (f. XXXX); 'Remissio Peccatorum' (f. XXXXI); 'Status futurus' (f. XXXXII).

Beginning at the other end on the verso of the first leaf is a fragmentary, untitled entry in English on the question of whether Christ had the freedom to commit sin, making reference to Matthew 26:53-4. On the next page is a short Latin quotation from St Jerome and a list of 'Authores notandi'; neither of these leaves is numbered.

The earliest entries do not feature in the table of contents at the other end of the book (see above): they are headed 'Out of Chillingworth's \ye Ld Falkland's/ discours of infallibility' (p. 1); 'Out of ye Iesuites Answer' (p. 1); 'The Ld Falklands Reply' (p. 1); 'Out of ye Lord ffalkland's Reply' (p. 5); 'Out of the Ld George Digbie's letter to Sr Kenelm Digby' (p. 8); 'Out of Sr Kenelms answer' (p. 8); 'Out of the Ld Digbies reply' (p. 8); 'Observations upon Athanasius's works' (p. 13). The first twelve pp. are mainly in English; from the entry on Athanasius onwards the document is mainly in Latin.

The table of contents (which is accurate except where indicated below) ignores these and refers to Newton's own pagination, which is by side rather than folio and begins on p. 17: 'Antichristo 17. [On p. 19 the repeated heading 'De Antichristo' is deleted and replaced by 'On 1 Iohn 5.7, 8'; this was used as the basis of the start of the first letter to Locke of November 1690 ('Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture', cf. New College, Oxford, Ms. 361(4)).] De Millennio ac die Iudicij 21. De Innovationibus & earum authoribus 25 Miscellanies 29. De Trinitate 33. De Monachis 37. Interpretationes sacrarum literarum ex veteribus 41. De Bestia bicorni 43 De Politia Ecclesiastica 47 [altered from '44': the entry is in fact on p. 47]. De Meretrice et cornu parvo 45 De Politia Ecclesiastica 47. De Athanasio 49 [this section is in fact entitled 'De Athanasio, & Antonio']. De hist. Eccl. sub Constantino et Constantio 51 [in the text, the title reads 'Ad Historiam Ecclesiasticam sub \Constantino &/ Constantio spectantia']. De eadem sub Valente et Theodosio, 55. [The page following p. 56 is numbered 55 again and Newton's pagination remains astray by two throughout the rest of the document.] De eadem post Theodosium, 65 [in the text, the title reads 'Historia Ecclesiastica post Tempora Theodosij']. De Arrianis et Eunomianis \et Macedonianis/ 67. De Hæresibus et Hæreticis 71. De patribus, scriptoribus, concilijs & auctoritate ecclesiastica 69 [last two entries in that order, p. 69 presumably having been overlooked when the index was first written].' Unmentioned in the index and presumably written after it was completed are the following sections: 'Ex Petavij Dogmatîs Theologicis Tract.1' (p. 75); 'De Synodo Serdicensi & Ariminensi' (p. 77); 'De Trinitate' (pp. 79-82); 'De nominibus Dei' (pp. 83-4); 'De Deo uno' (pp. 85-9, but 87-8 are blank); 'De Bestia Bicorni' (p. 91); 'Interpretationes sacrarum literarum' (pp. 93-4); 'Variantes Lectiones sacrarum literarum notandæ' (p. 99); 'Ex historia Ingulphi edit. Oxonijs 1684' (p. 101, title and text in Humphrey Newton's hand); 'De Homousio, usia, hypostasi, substantia & personis' (p. 103).

The note on the cover can be dated to the period 1689-90, when Newton frequently attended the house of Sir Francis Masham at Oates (where he often met and discussed theological issues with Locke), but it is not necessarily contemporaneous with the rest of the document. The notebook certainly post-dates works referred to in the list of historical writers at the back ('Epistola Consularis in qua Collegia 70 Consulum ab A.C. 29 ad AC. 229, in vulgetis fastis hactenus perperam descripta corriguntur. Authore Henrico Novis Veronensi. Bononiæ apud Anton. Pisarium A. 1683') and in the list of 'Authores notandi' at the front (the second volume of Knorr von Rosenroth's Kabbala Denudata (1684: H873)). Humphrey Newton, whose hand appears on p. 101, was Newton's amanuensis between 1684 and 1690.

[29] 132 pp.

[30]

in English and Latin with some quotations from Greek

[31] Theological Notebook (Part 1) Theological Notebook (Part 2)

© 2021 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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