Catalogue Entry: ALCH00084

Draft alchemical treatise or compilation.

Author: Isaac Newton

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

[Normalized Text (at Chymistry of Isaac Newton)]

Custodial History

Bought at the Sotheby sale by William H. Robinson for £19 and at some point acquired by Bern Dibner, who donated it to the Smithsonian.

Sotheby Lot

SL66 + ?


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.

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.

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Professor Rob Iliffe
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Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

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