Catalogue Entry: ALCH00069

Fitzwilliam Notebook

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK

[Normalized Text] [Diplomatic Text]

Custodial History

Bought at the Sotheby sale by Maggs Brothers for £180 on 14 July 1936. By the end of the month it had been presented to the museum by the Friends of the Fitzwilliam Museum with financial assistance from Sir Thomas Barlow.

Sotheby Lot



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'.

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'.

[Editorial Note 1] This and the following two pages are written in Thomas Shelton's shorthand notation and were deciphered by R.S. Westfall in 'Short-Writing and the State of Newton's Conscience, 1662', Notes and Records of the Royal Society 18 (1963), 10-16.

[Editorial Note 2] The following material is written from the opposite end of the notebook.

[Editorial Note 3] There follows a table of Hebrew characters with Latin annotations.

© 2024 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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