Catalogue Entry: THEM00127

Fragments on miscellaneous theological subjects

Author: Isaac Newton

Source: SL255, Location Unknown

Custodial History

SL255, described in the 1936 Sotheby catalogue as 21 pp., was bought at the 1936 Sotheby sale by Emmanuel Fabius for £13.10s. The manuscript as described here was offered as Lot 511 at the 2004 New York Sotheby sale for an estimated $300,000-$500,000, but failed to sell. There is some suggestion that one leaf of the original SL255 is now Babson Ms. 435, but all the other lots bought by Fabius in 1936 were re-auctioned whole at the 2004 New York Sotheby sale. However, the discrepancy in page counts between the two catalogues remains mysterious.

Although the whereabouts of some dismembered fragments of the original document are now known (as detailed below), no location can be assigned to the document as a whole as its components are now in a large number of locations, most of which are still unknown.

At some point between the 1936 and 2004 sales the document was subdivided (it is unclear by whom) into ten for the most part fragmentary sections. These were re-arranged and re-numbered for the 2004 sale, though the document was offered whole. Some at least of these smaller sections were obviously then sold individually, as they appear from time to time, sometimes further subdivided, in auction catalogues or at book fairs.

SL255.1 became section 1 of SL511. Its whereabouts are still unknown.

SL255.2 became section 3 and SL255.3 became section 2 of SL511. It is not clear why the document was split into two in the first place, and still less so why the order of the two parts was subsequently reversed, since the original 255.3 clearly follows from 255.2, complete with matching catchword.

Folio 1 of SL255.2 (f. 1 of SL511.3) was offered for sale as Lot 1078 at the 14 November 2005 Bonhams (Los Angeles and San Francisco) sale with an estimate of $30,000-$50,000 US but did not sell. It was again offered as Lot 63 at the 24 October 2007 Bloomsbury auction in New York with an estimate of $20,000-$30,000 US but again failed to sell. Folio 1 of SL255.3 (f. 3 of the original document and f. 1 of SL511.2) was offered as Lot 55 at the 5 April 2008 Bloomsbury auction in New York with an estimate of $35,000-$45,000 US but not sold.

Folio 1 of the original document (f. 1 of SL511.3) had been acquired by bookdealers Estates of Mind by early April 2010, and f. 2 (f. 2 of SL511.3) by Karpeles Manuscript Museums by July 2007: it is now in the Karpeles Museum, Santa Barbara, California. The location of ff. 3-4 (SL511.2) remains unknown.

SL255.4 became section 9 of SL511. It was offered as Lot 91 at the 22 February 2007 PBA Galleries auction in San Francisco with an estimate of $12,000-$15,000 US but remained unsold.

SL255.5 was not given a separate designation in the 2004 catalogue description of SL511. The page was offered by the online RR Auction on 11 August 2010 and sold to an unknown buyer for $10,871 US.

SL255.6 became section 8 of SL511 and had been acquired by the bookdealers Estates of Mind by early April 2010.

SL255.7 became section 4 of SL511. Folio 1 (paragraphs 5, 6 and part of 7) was offered for auction by PBA Galleries, San Francisco, on 21 February 2008 as Lot 133 and was sold to an unknown buyer for $20,000 US. Folio 2 (the rest of paragraph 7, paragraph 8 and part of paragraph 9) had been acquired by the Karpeles Museums by July 2007 and is now in their museum in Santa Barbara, California.

SL255.8 became section 5 of SL511 and had been acquired by the booksellers Estates of Mind by early April 2010.

SL255.9 became section 6 of SL511 and had been acquired by the booksellers Estates of Mind by early April 2010.

SL255.10 became section 7 of SL511 and was sold to an unknown buyer for £7,200 as Lot 146 at the 16 November 2005 Christie's auction in London.

Sotheby Lot

[Part of?] SL255



'Chap. /Of the Religion of the Iews & Christians' with the further heading 'Chap. /Of the Christian religion & it's corruption in morality' (on f. 1r). 2 pp. on 1f., in English, 1,216 words.

SL255.2 and SL255.3

Part of a passage (incomplete at both ends) on Church history, the corruption of the faith and the Nicene Council. A marginal reference on f. 4r to an edition of Athanasius's works published (according to Newton) at Paris in 1699 gives a terminus a quo for the date of this section. However, the edition Newton had in mind is surely the works of Athanasius, edited by Bernard de Montfaucon, published at Paris in 1698.

6 pp. on 4 ff., in English with some Latin, 2,565 words.


A fragment on the Nazarenes. 1 p., in English with two citations from St Jerome in Latin, 144 words.


A fragment on Revelation. 1 p., in English, 134 words.


A fragment on the worship due to God from man. 1 p., in English, 352 words.


Paragraphs 5-9 (9 is incomplete) of a study of Revelation. 2 pp. on 2 ff., in English, 1,516 words.


A self-contained section on the faith Christ taught the disciples. 2 pp. on 2 ff., in English, 921 words.


A passage (beginning missing) on the true faith of early Christians. 4 pp. on 2 ff., in English, 2,109 words.


A fragment on early Church government. 1 p., in English, 280 words.

Much of the material is related to that in Yahuda Ms. 15 and the Bodmer Ms.

© 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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