Catalogue Entry: ALCH00090

Miscellaneous alchemical notes and emblems, in Latin and English with some French.

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: Ms. 416, The Babson College Grace K. Babson Collection of the Works of Sir Isaac Newton, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California, USA

Custodial History

Bought at the Sotheby sale by Maggs Brothers for £30 and offered to Keynes on approval on 13 August 1936 for the sale price plus 20% but returned. Invoiced by Maggs to Yahuda for the same price on 23 December following. Acquired at some point by William Schab and sold to the Babson for $800 in February 1948. In 2006, following the closure of the Dibner Institute, the holdings of the Babson Collection were transferred on permanent loan to the Hungtington Library, San Marino, California.

Sotheby Lot

SL70 [+ ??]



1. 'Lapis Philosophicus cum suis rotis elementaribus', 1 p.: an elaborate alchemico-astrological diagram carefully copied in Newton's hand. In the centre is a seven pointed star labelled 'Prima Materia', surrounded by seven more seven-pointed stars each labelled with a gender and humour ('e.g. 'Femina phlegmatica', 'Masculina cholerica'). Each of these in turn is surrounded by the symbols for the seven 'planets'/metals in different configurations. To the right of the diagram, English notes explaining how it should be coloured.

2. Rougher copy of another alchemico-astrological emblem consisting of eight squares containing symbolic names in French (e.g. 'Souphure de terre', 'Loyseau dans son nid', 'La fille du grand Segret' ['Sulphur of earth'; 'the bird in its nest'; 'the great Segret's daughter']), arranged in a geometric grid decked out with a riot of symbols for signs of the zodiac and 'planets'/metals. Beneath this are the letter B surrounded by eight crosses, two allegorical figures labelled 'Simplicita' and 'Prudence', what appears to be a rough sketch of an alchemical operation, and a number of exceptionally cryptic remarks in French such as 'huict Estoilles Cest mon nom' ['eight stars that is my name'] and 'flamel dict Cest son fourneau' ['Flamel says it is his furnace']. 1 p. The reverse had been written on but has been completely blacked out with ink. This sheet is not mentioned in the Sotheby catalogue description.


1. 'References': 9 pp. of alchemical subject headings (about five or six on each page) followed in some cases by page references to various alchemical works, the vast majority of them by 'Philalethes' though Ripley and Jan Baptista van Helmont are also mentioned.

2. Notes and abstracts from various authors, in Latin and English, written around some notes about the size and design of a building. 10 pp.

3. 'Testamentum antiquius Clavicula': a list of various (al)chemical terms and sources; also two apparently unrelated geometrical diagrams. 2 pp.


1. A further list of alchemical headwords followed by notes and page references to various works: 1 p., on the reverse of a fragmentary draft letter to John Aubrey reading in its entirety: 'Mr Aubrey/ I understand you have a letter from Mr Lucas for me. Pray forbear to send me any thing more of that nature.'

2. Alchemical jottings in Latin and English on 3 pp.


Described in the Sotheby catalogue as 1 p. + 25 pp.: it is not clear whether this is an error or whether something has been added. Described still more perplexingly in the Babson catalogue as '19 pages of manuscript on 20 leaves', though the following description proceeds to cover all 28 pages.

© 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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