Catalogue Entry: OTHE00081

Chapter XX

Author: David Brewster

Source: Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: 1855).

[Normalized Text] [Diplomatic Text]


An account of this interview by Flamsteed will be found in Baily's Flamsteed, pp. 69, 217.


In this Report, the original of which I have found in Sir Isaac's handwriting, the expense of printing 400 copies is £683, with £180 to pay the charges of two calculators, &c. "This set of observations," the reporters say, "we repute the fullest <222> and completest that has ever yet been made, and as it leads to the perfection of astronomy and navigation, so, if it should be lost, the loss would be irreparable." The Report is published in Baily's Flamsteed, p. 234.


I have found three rough copies of these articles, all in Sir Isaac's handwriting, and obviously drawn up by himself. The very receipts granted by Flamsteed were written by Newton.


November 20, 1705. Baily's Flamsteed, p. 256.


In this note he offers immediately to put the first volume into the hands of the referees.


Flamsteed says that he himself had drawn up articles which "were not to Newton's purpose;" and he refers to certain topics in "the articles," which are not mentioned in what Mr. Baily has ventured to consider as the genuine articles. See pages 80 and 81 of his Autobiography.


Baily's Flamsteed, pp. 86 and 320.


I have now before me the originals of the order upon Newton, of the 26th March, the order of Flamsteed of the 10th April, to pay the money to Mr. Hodgson, and Hodgson's receipt of the 12th April, all carefully preserved by Sir Isaac.


In Newton's drafts of these articles, two different modes of paying Flamsteed are mentioned. One of these provides that he shall receive £50 for copying and correcting the press of each volume; and also 1s. 6d. per place, for computing the longitudes and latitudes of the planets, the places not exceeding 100, and the same sum for the places of the moon. The other mode is to pay two hundred and . . . pounds lor bofh volumes.


This draft of the articles is given in APPENDIX, No. XV.


In an unpublished letter, dated Windsor, July 30, 1706. On the 8th of January 1707, Sir Isaac was requested by the Royal Society to endeavour to procure Tycho's MSS., to be printed with Mr. Flamsteed's observations, and on the 27th he stated that he would endeavour to procure them. Tycho's observations on the comets of 1585, 1590, and 1596, were given to the Royal Society by Newton, October 5, 1722. — Miscellaneous MSS. lvii.


The agreement with the Prince was considered as cancelled by his death. His treasurer had advanced £375; and as £25 of this had not been expended, it was returned to his administrators. See APPENDIX, No. XVII.


Mr. Baily's Life of Flamsteed was printed by order of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty in 1835, and copies of it presented by them to numerous individuals and institutions.


"The same remark may perhaps be applied to the Catalogue; and therefore Flamsteed's assertion that the Queen's order, (to open the packet,) if obtained at all, had been obtained after the offence was comniitted, is probably correct; as that order would not have been given prior to February, and the Catalogue containing the additional stars by Halley, was at press in the following month, and actually finished by the month of June." See page 232.

[15] Baily's Flamsteed. Supplement, pp. 727, 728.


Flamsteed tells us in his autobiography written long afterwards, that in March 1711 he was "privately told that his Catalogue was in the press," (p. 93;) and in his letter to Sharp, dated May 15, 1711, he says, "March 25th last past I was informed by a friend that my Catalogue was in the press, and some sheets of it printed off;" but this was no secret, for on the 21st February, at a meeting of the Royal Society, Dr. Sloane was ordered "to write a letter to him, desiring him to furnish the deficient part of his Catalogue of the Fixed Stars, now printing by order of the Queen."


Baily's Flamsteed, p. 93.


Baily's Flamsteed, p. 298.


Baily's Flamsteed, pp. 73 and 219.


Ibid. p. 76.


It is here important to notice that the printing of the places of the planets, &c., is not a necessary part of the arrangement, and that if it is thought proper to adopt it, it is to be paid for by a separate sum. In two copies of this report, found among Flamsteed's MSS., this £180 is not mentioned. — Baily's Flamsteed, p. 76, note. But in giving in his autobiography a copy of the estimated expense, Flamsteed not only inserts the £180 along with the other sums, but he gives it as the sum to be paid for two calculators, thus making it appear that £280 out of the £863 is to be at his disposal. After his statement of the charges of printing, &c., Flamsteed adds, "But the last particular of the charge (£180 for two calculators) was not mentioned in it (the Report), but added in a note under it, for what reason those know best who drew it up." The Report states distinctly the reason. It is strange that an editor like Mr. Baily, who has given the real Report as possessed by Flamsteed, should have allowed these misstatements to pass unreproved.


Feb. 28, 1705.


March 22, 1705.


"I think to be very plain with Mr. Aston, and desire that he, I, and Mr. Churchill, may understand one another fully, and know what each shall advantage themselves by my pains; for his and Mr. Churchill's will be little or nothing, but to accept their shares, and this will be no equal bargain for me that must be at all the labour and trouble here, nor for Mr. Newton, who saves us the labour of soliciting for the Prince's bounty at Court. And therefore I think he too ought to be acquainted with what advantage every one of us shall make, and go and share with us. I shall say this to him when he returns from Cambridge." — March 22, 1705. It may be conjectured, from the postscript to this letter, that the parties were, according to this plan, to divide the profits arising from the sale of the 400 copies of the work.


Dated July 19, 1708, and sent by Wren to Newton.


Baily's Flamsteed, p. 87.

[27] Ibid., p.87, note.


See pages 172, note; 180, note; and 181, note.


This paragraph, and the one substituted for it, sire given in APPENDIX, No. XIV.


Nearly three years after this letter to Wren was written, on the 26th April 1711, Flamsteed desired Dr. Arbuthnot "to peruse his letter to Sir C. Wren, of which he had given him a copy, and particularly the last paragraph, whereby he would be satisfied that he had done all that lay in his power to expedite his work, and had taken great care of the Catalogue of the fixed stars." Now it is only in the original letter actually sent to Wren, that these matters occur in the last paragraph, so that Flamsteed referred to the real letter, of which he had taken a correct copy for Arbuthnot. The incorrect copy was, therefore, manufactured at a later date for the purposes we have mentioned.


This letter of Halley's to Flamsteed, dated June 23, 1711, is the only appearance he makes in person in this multifarious correspondence. When we consider the innumerable and coarse attacks made upon his character, and the vulgar abuse of him which almost every letter contains, the following advice to Flamsteed at the close of his epistle will not be thought unfriendly: — "Pray govern your passion, and when you have seen and considered what I have done for you, you may perhaps think I deserve at your hands a much better treatment than you have for a long time been pleased to bestow on your quondam friend, and not yet profligate enemy (as you call me)." This advice is not so severe as that of Flamsteed's own particular friend Dr. Smith. "My advice is that you represent your case nakedly, clearly, and without any flourish, or without any kind of resentment, as you are a philosopher and a mathematician, and above all, as you are a clergyman.' — Baily's Flamsteed, pp. 293 and 747.


On the 18th March 1712, when Halley visited the Observatory, "He offered," says Flamsteed, "to burn his Catalogue if I would print mine." Dr. Arbuthnot had previously offered to "reprint, change, or alter anything Flamsteed allowed."


In his Autobiography and Diary, and in a letter to Sharp.


Baily's Flamsteed, p. 270; March 24, 1709.


In APPENDIX No. XVII., I have given an account of the expense incurred by the Prince and the Government in printing the work.


The correspondence between Newton and Flamsteed seems to have terminated with Flamsteed's letter of September 14, 1706. I have found, however, among the Portsmouth papers, a draft of a letter from Newton to Flamsteed, without a date, and certainly written about the 24th of March 1711. It shows his great anxiety to get on with the printing of the work, in place of stopping it, as Flamsteed maintained. It will be found in APPENDIX, No. XVIII. There is also a short one from Flamsteed, dated April 23, 1716, wishing Newton to return some of his manuscripts.

It may be proper here to notice an observation made by Professor De Morgan in reference to the omission of Flamsteed's name from the second edition of the Principia. "Shortly afterwards," he says, "the second edition of the Principia appeared. Flamsteed, whose observations had been of more service to Newton than those of any other individual, and to whotn proper acknowledgment had been made in the first edition, and who had increased the obligation in the interval, had his name erased in all the passages in which it appeared: (we have verified for this occasion eight or nine places ourselves.) To such a pitch is this petty resentment carried, that whereas in one place of the first edition (prop. 18, book iii.) there is in a parenthesis 'by the observations of Cassini and Flamsteed," the corresponding place of the second is 'by the consent of the observations of astronomers.'" — Sketch of the Life of Newton, Cabinet Portrait Gallery, vol. xi. p. 101: Lond. 1846. In reply to this statement, Mr. Edleston observes, "the name, however, will be found in pages 441, 443, 445, 458, 465, 478, and 479: The last two references occur in some additional matter on comets, which was put into Cotes's hand in October 1712. (See p. 141 of this work.) I question very much whether the suppression of Flamsteed's name in several places where it had appeared in the first edition, was not such as was necessary in the process of improving the work." — Correspondence, &c. p. lxxv. note 162. In thus correcting the numerical oversight of Professor De Morgan, we must admit that his criticism is substantially correct. Mr. Edleston's explanation is not applicable to the omission of the joint names of Cassini and Flamsteed; but even if it had an application to them, it would not justify the omission. Newton owed to Flamsteed substantial obligations, and we do not think that these obligations are sufficiently acknowledged in the Principia, even if his name had in every case been retained in the second edition.


The following opinion of the Principia, given by Flamsteed in 1713, might have either justified an attempt on the part of Newton's friends, to lower his scientific character, or rendered it unnecessary. "I think his new Principia worse than the old, save in the moon!" — Baily's Flamsteed, p. 307.


The injurious tendency of Mr. Baily's work, is strikingly exhibited in the notices of it in our two leading reviews. Both the Edinburgh and the Quarterly Review took the part of Flamsteed, and made no attempt to defend Newton against his charges. It never seems to have occurred to the writers of these articles, that the charges are supported by no other evidence than that of the choleric individual by whom they are preferred; and neither of them has been at the trouble of cross-questioning their solitary witness. The Quarterly Reviewer goes so far, as "charitably to attribute Newton's letter of the 6th of January 1699, to the effect of that distressing malady which overwhelmed Newton for a time in 1692 — a malady rashly ascribed by some to mental aberration!"— See Edinburgh Review, vol. lxii. p. 359, June 1836; and Quarterly Review, vol. lv. p. 96, December 1835.

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