About Newton’s Library

The information in this section is largely extrapolated, by kind permission of Cambridge University Press, from John Harrison, The Library of Isaac Newton (Cambridge, 1978), though being continuously revised and updated. Each entry has a number, preceded by ‘H’, indicating its place in Harrison’s catalogue. Users are advised that copyright on Harrison’s work remains with Cambridge University Press and their written permission should be sought before quoting or copying extensively from this material.

What is presented here is by no means a comprehensive list of Newton’s sources. It comprises those volumes Newton is known to have owned which he seems at least likely to have drawn on in composing his theological, alchemical and Mint papers. It is a list not of editions but of actual volumes, most of them still in existence. Evidence of Newton’s use is provided by annotations or dog-earing (which are described in some detail wherever they occur), by references or citations in the manuscripts, and/or by subsequent research which has otherwise demonstrated or suggested his use of a particular source. While it is possible that some dog-earing was the work of subsequent owners, it is evident from the fact that most instances of it point quite precisely to passages of demonstrable importance to Newton that the vast majority is his own. He used dog-ears not merely to mark pages but to align the page corners with specific passages of interest (hence the fact that pages may have their corners turned down, up, or both): see Harrison, 25-7 for a more detailed account.

A number of the volumes listed in the ‘theology’ and ‘alchemy’ sections are not in themselves strictly speaking theological or alchemical. They are included for their relevance to Newton’s work in those fields. Many works that would now be classed under, say, mineralogy, medicine or ‘chemistry’ in the modern sense were highly relevant to what Newton himself referred to indifferently as ‘chemistry’, ‘alchemy’ or ‘chymia’. In the case of ‘theology’ a boundary is even harder to establish: Newton drew on historical, geographical and linguistic studies and even myths and fables in his attempts to interpret world history as the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy. The policy has been to include anything that he appears to have used in his studies, however lateral the connection may appear to modern sensibilities.

Current locations, or current owners, are listed where known. ‘Babson’ indicates reference to A Descriptive Catalogue of the Grace K. Babson Collection of the Works of Sir Isaac Newton ... Babson Park, Mass. (New York, 1950; supplement Babson Park, 1955). Full titles of other works referred to can be found in the bibliography. ‘Tr’ stands for Trinity College, Cambridge and is followed in each case by the call number. Where a work is bound together with others, its position in the volume is indicated by a bracketed number immediately following the call number, e.g. ‘Tr/NQ.143(2)’ means the second work in the volume bearing the call number Trinity College NQ.143.

© 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 - newtonproject@history.ox.ac.uk

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