The Newton Project, 2008-13
Rob Iliffe
December 2013

1. Introduction

Formed in 1998 under the general editorship of Rob Iliffe and Scott Mandelbrote, the Newton Project set out to produce a comprehensive edition of Isaac Newton’s ‘non-scientific’ papers. Since 2007 it has expanded its aims so that its chief goal is to produce a comprehensive edition of all of Newton’s printed and unpublished writings. The project team is currently based at Sussex and its core functions have been directed since 1999 by Iliffe. From the start of 2008 the project has been funded by two major Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Research Grants and two Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) awards. Private funders have also made generous donations to the project, without which the transcription of the scientific and mathematical papers would have been impossible. The Newton Project could not have achieved its goals without major collaborative work undertaken with the Chymistry of Isaac Newton Project at Indiana University; the Newton Project Canada at King’s College, Halifax, Nova Scotia; the Cambridge University Digital Library (CUDL); and the National Library of Israel (NLI).[1]

Since January 2008 The Project has published over four million words of diplomatically transcribed text, about 90% of which is made up of Newton’s technically forbidding writings in physics, mathematics and theology. These are foundational documents in Western and indeed global intellectual history, and they are published in full, with accompanying images of the originals, for the first time. The amount of text published during this period is almost double the output attained up to the end of 2007, and the rate of production has been achieved thanks to the successful completion of the four major research grants held during the period. Given the complexity of the documents and the scale of the task, the transcription and encoding of all the religious papers, about 95% of which is now (in December 2013) available online, represents a remarkable achievement. No other comparable body of previously unpublished religious documents has been released online, and the detailed coding of the born-digital scientific and mathematical texts is unrivalled for a project of this scale. Indeed, the writings on the exact sciences published on the Newton Project’s website constitute some of the most complex body of documents transcribed with a combination of MathML and TEI-P5 encoding.[2]

2. The Newton Project as a Scholarly Edition

Apart from the transcriptions of the various editions of Principia and Opticks, all the documents authored by Newton published in the current REF cycle have been produced from manuscript sources. The rendition in a diplomatic/normalized form of the heavily overwritten religious texts and the complex scientific and mathematical works have forced the Project to push to the limits the potential of the frameworks provided by the latest instantiation of the Text Encoding Initiative Guidelines ( TEI-P5) and MathML. At the top of each text researchers can now see the date and process of online publication of each document (its ‘revision history’), and advanced users can now see the schema and XML coding that undergird the digital document. Where possible, documents have contextual material in the form of catalogue details, translations into English, and links to images of original documents. A general introduction to the documents is provided in the following section. The texts are freely available to the general public, a feature that offers significant benefits in terms of outreach and the potential for future crowdsourcing.

The digital medium is particularly appropriate for hosting the writings of a man who evinced what can only be described as a visceral hatred for print culture. Although his interest and expertise in both church history and prophecy was known to many people, no print edition of any of his non-scientific writings, authorized or otherwise by Newton, appeared in his lifetime (though he did show selected works to acolytes). His research remained constantly work-in-progress and there was no terminus to his various projects in the form of truly ‘final’ treatise (this of course applies equally to his great printed works). An evolving and expanding digital site is eminently suitable for publishing these private researches, for showing them to their full extent, and for representing the detailed and dynamic process of his thought.[3]

Increasing scholarly attention has recently been focussed on ways of classifying different sorts of ‘digital’ output. One concern of these discussions has been the question of whether digital editing takes a different form, or has different goals from conventional editing. The response to this issue can depend on how generally one conceives of the task of editing. If it is supposed to concern the production of some sort of introductory or contextual information about the document and the text, then obviously the goals of print and digital editing are similar. However, there are special, distinctive aspects of editions that are hosted online (as opposed to being on CD-ROMs), and in particular, of datasets whose core content is either born-digital text or non-textual data (such as film or music). These features concern, inter alia, the manner in which the information is acquired, stored and displayed, the size and complexity of the dataset in question, the nature of the IP agreements required to publish texts in perpetuity, and the potential audiences for the output. It is of course, a peculiar quality of digital text that it can function both as an end-in-itself, i.e., act as a linear narrative that can be read as one would read a print narrative, and also as a searchable dataset.[4] The last point is central to understanding the relationship between the logic of production and the needs of the audience, since scholarly users of the site have invariably preferred that the Newton Project concentrate its energies on the release of searchable text. It should not be forgotten that almost none of the religious materials the Newton Project has released since the start of 2008 has previously been seen by more than handful of scholars.[5]

Recent literature points to a distinctions between a digital ‘edition’, a digital ‘archive’, and a digital ‘research environment’, though there is substantial disagreement over what these terms denote, and whether they can be clearly distinguished from each other. I assume here that a proper digital archive contains a full diplomatic rendition of a collection of documents, with a comprehensive underlying encoding that can be scrutinised by readers if they so wish. Ideally, this should also allow readers easy access to very good quality images of the original document, though financial, copyright, technical or other reasons may make the provision of these difficult or impossible. On its own, the presentation of images without transcriptions does not count as a digital archive, though for very large datasets, searchable collections consisting of images encoded with basic metadata may be ‘good enough’ for research purposes (and some digitised images of printed materials can be searched on the fly). Transcriptions in a properly constituted digital archive should have been encoded and proofed to the highest standards, while differences in interpretation of difficult passages that occur at various stages of the checking process should be preserved in code.

One conception of a digital archive is that it is an environment in which the researcher is given direct access to the images and/or transcriptions of the original materials, as if he or she were actually in the presence of the documents. This constitutes the pure antithesis of the situation in print culture, where a number of different aspects of the material edition reinforce its status as an intermediary between the original materials and the reader.[6]In cases where digital archives merely provide access to a host of different resources at the same time, a virtue can be made of keeping traditional editorial apparatus or paraphernalia to a minimum, so that as little as possible is interposed between the reader and a transcription or image of the ‘original’. This effect of unmediated contact with the document can be enhanced by suppressing editorial activity, and by hiding both the programming work that has been involved in creating the site, and the coding that underlies the transcriptions. The benefits to the user of such digital productions are obvious: disparate archives can be virtually re-united, the researcher can interrogate the materials with the benefits of digital tools, and the images may well offer a better view of the original text than is possible by actually inspecting the original document.[7]

Nevertheless, the notion that giving researchers virtual access to original materials is sufficient by itself, is problematic, as is the conceit that this access is actually unmediated. The digitised images may seriously mis-represent the original in some sense, while the encoded transcriptions are in reality collaborative interpretations made by programmers, encoders, transcribers and editors. Downplaying such work effaces the crucial roles played by editing, and it erodes the capacity to assign credibility to the output by identifying the person or team responsible or accountable for its creation. Any well formed archive must in some sense be an edition, since one or more people have exercised skill, effort and judgement in identifying, assembling and producing the core resources. In the Newton Project, a substantial amount of editorial effort has gone into creating the infrastructure of the site, reaching copyright agreements over licensing the materials, arranging the materials into a coherent form (based on the catalogue of Newton’s papers), and creating richly encoded, accurate transcriptions. This represents a vast amount of on-going but vital editorial work that precedes the addition of even more contextual information.

The emphasis on establishing, transcribing and tagging the documentary materials is also to some extent in line with the recent emphasis within digital editing on the material document rather than on the ‘text’ — the latter understood as the meaningful script arising from the document. Some commentators have suggested that the primary focus of a digital production should be on accurately rendering all information relevant to the physical document, while the editorial work involved in interpreting the text and in articulating its relationship both to other texts by the author and to wider contexts should be deferred to a later stage. Establishing and re-presenting the documentary archive has always been the core business of the Newton Project. From the outset, the transcription and encoding of the source materials was linked to the creation of the substantial online catalogue of his non-scientific papers. This includes all relevant details extracted from the correspondence of John Maynard Keynes and Abraham Shalom Yahuda about the provenance and subsequent fate of the alchemical and religious papers following their sale at Sotheby’s in July 1936.[8]

The concentration on the document has been criticised by other scholars, who argue that editorial focus should be on the contexts and intentions underlying the creation of the text, along with the various meanings constituted by the various historical interactions with the text once it has been made available for scrutiny. From this perspective, the Newton Project evidently satisfies most of the requirements needed to be classed as a digital edition. The Project site has published a vast amount of additional primary and expository material in the form of translations, editorial notes and contextual primary sources, along with a general introduction to the overall Newton Project (of which this sentence is a part). The contextual materials on the Newton Project rival or surpass those on any other scholarly digital site in terms of scale, and include detailed and explicit descriptions of editorial policy in areas such as transcription and annotation; a comprehensive presentation of all the biographical materials written about Newton in manuscript and printed form in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; the Newton-related personal papers of Keynes; a large amount of textual material relating to the popularisation of Newtonianism in the eighteenth century; a series of podcasted interviews about Newton and his intellectual environs conducted in 2009-11; interpretive essays on Newton’s political and religious writings; and a full description of Newton’s library (to be completed in May 2014). With such a vast range of materials available for the reader or researcher, the Newton Project is clearly more than a digital edition. For that reason, it might be termed a digital research environment, though again, it would be unwise to attempt to define such an entity too precisely.

Although there is a substantial amount of contextual material on the Newton Project site, the scale of the archive also makes conventional editing extremely difficult. In addition to thousands of passages extracted from primary sources, there are hundreds of stand-alone chapters whose relationship both to each other, and to some larger ‘work’ of which they must have been a part, is still unknown. Indeed, since similarly titled chapters were promiscuously reproduced in different projects, it is hard to see what constitutes a work in these circumstances, and there is nothing close to a privileged text that could exist as a reasonable ‘copy text’. Nevertheless, the editorial team at the Project has begun the task of ordering the archive, and of ascertaining how all the parts of the whole fit together both logically and chronologically. A great deal of effort identifying similarities between concepts, sentences, paragraphs and chapters across the vast panorama of his work has already been done by the transcribers and general editors, although a comprehensive account of Newton’s working practices, including the way he re-used his own materials, must await the transcription of all of his writings. This editorial work obviously benefits from the existence of the simple search and browsing facilities already on the site, although more sophisticated analytic tools (scheduled to be added to the site in 2014-15) will make the task much easier.

The work required to interpret, transcribe, encode and publish the most heavily rewritten folios is immensely difficult and time-consuming, being as much as twenty times greater than for a relatively ‘clean’ page. Rough working notes from his early mathematical researches are the most difficult texts of all, and take a vast amount of skill, time and effort to transcribe, encode, check, and publish online. This has been accomplished in such a way that they can be seen by researchers inspecting the text in one of about ten different versions of the major browsers currently in use. Other pages present different problems. In the following heavily encoded example, from Newton’s ‘Waste book’, his step-father’s much older writings are at the top of the page while Newton has re-used the paper for a completely different purpose.


Although the Barnabas Smith text is located elsewhere on the site (and is described in section below), the Newton material appears in diplomatic form on the Newton Project as


while the underlying coding has been represented as


Until 2011, the only means of transcribing and checking transcriptions was to prepare preliminary transcriptions from microfilm, and then to travel to places where the documents are now housed in order to check ‘against the original’. The majority of the religious documents are now based at the NLI, and funding constraints made it difficult to spend more than a few weeks in Jerusalem to check the transcriptions against the original. The bulk of the transcriptions made prior to 2009 were prepared from the Chadwyck-Healey microfilm of Newton’s papers that was released in 1991. This was itself almost wholly based on prior sets of microfilm prepared by Cambridge University Library, the Jewish and National University Library (Hebrew University), and King’s College Cambridge. In 2009 the Newton Project team was given access by the Chymistry of Isaac Newton Project to digitised (greyscale) images of photocopies that were prepared in the 1970s for Richard S. Westfall. These are far superior to the Chadwyck-Healey microfilms, being more legible and including pages that were missed in subsequent efforts to capture images of the papers, either through carelessness or because they had been stolen in the meantime.

Since 2011 we have had access to high quality colour images of the entire Newton archives at CUDL and the NLI. In the case of more ‘polished’ documents, in which Newton made few changes from one version to the next, the greyscale images are barely inferior to the colour images. The colour images come into their own, however, in transcribing very heavily overwritten folios, of which there are hundreds. These are the sorts of documents whose contents are of much more interest to the specialist interested in the minute development of Newton’s ideas, but whose messy complexity is impossible to capture in a print edition. Aside from the damage to the document that is perpetrated by continually inspecting it from different angles (or in different lights), manipulation of the colour images can allow more information to be made available than is possible by directly handling the original. In the case of the page from the ‘Waste book’ reproduced above, for example, some of the text is too faded to be seen with the naked eye, but it is now clearly visible by enhancing the image file.

Now that the Cambridge and Jerusalem images are freely accessible online, the Newton Project has begun to provide links to them at the document level. As a result, editors and readers can now see images alongside originals, a facility that utterly transforms the nature and usefulness of the site. At present this can only be done by opening up two separate windows, which is a practical if less than ideal solution, but researchers and editors can now check the quality of the work produced on the project, and suggest or effect corrections. Newton’s working practice, where additional paragraphs or lines are very often to be found on other folios, makes it difficult in practice to link transcriptions and images at a page level. It also requires a high level of technical collaboration, which has been difficult to achieve given the different technical approach to documents that exist in separate institutions, though we are aiming to provide the infrastructure for this by the end of 2014. The capacity to see high quality images of the originals brings problems alongside opportunities. As already stated, we now have the ability to produce highly accurate transcriptions of original documents without travelling to the actual institutions where these are housed. On the downside, what was once unreadable on the microfilms we were using is now visible, and a great deal of work has been performed since 2009 using the colour images to correct those marks previously labelled ‘illeg.’

It is obvious that the task of editing these texts in any conventional sense is impossible for any single scholar, and the complete reconstruction of Newton’s archive will require many more years along with the handiwork of many individuals, most of whom will not have been trained as scholars. The production of an online edition of this magnitude places immense technical and administrative burdens upon the editor and editorial team, which go beyond what is demanded of traditional print productions. Conventional editing does not require the editor to sustain the digital infrastructure while the project materials are being created, and it certainly does not require the editor to be involved in the maintenance and development of the edition after a certain date at which project is supposed to have ended. In any case, funders do not give open-ended support to these projects without some demand that some or all of the texts will have been published online by a certain moment.

Publishing the Newton papers online, and adding sophisticated searching and browsing facilities makes the task of reintegrating these documents at least conceivable, and practically possible. Nevertheless, it is probable that only the concerted effort of many people will allow the resource to realise its full potential. The fact that the materials are freely available online opens up the genuine possibility of using the skills of readers to correct transcription errors. The opportunity to make use of the power of the crowd — that is, of many of the tens of thousands of visitors who come to the site each year — will almost certainly need to be realised in the next few years. Much editorial effort during this period will go into creating the infrastructure that will allow readers to contact editors alerting them to errors, or better still, to become trusted editors in their own right. Indeed, many readers will aspire to and be capable of much more than correcting transcription errors, and the long-term sustainability and viability of the project may well be guaranteed by adopting a partnership model in which academics co-own the site with non-academics.

3. The Documents

A. The Religious Papers

Newton’s more polished religious writings are among the most original treatises on theology in the early modern period, and their publication allows researchers to see this work in its totality for the first time. Given their scope and quality, as well as their status as previously unseen works by Isaac Newton, their release constitutes a major event in the history of early modern thought. The approximately 2.2m words of Newton’s religious writings published since the start of 2008 show each stage of his creative process, from his note-taking to his idiosyncratic redrafting of various texts, and then finally on to the polished and virtually complete texts, written for a still largely mysterious audience. These texts transform what we know of the scale and nature of Newton’s researches, and make it possible for the first time to understand the links between different strands of his religious writings; the order of their composition; their putative links with other areas of his intellectual life; and their relations to the wider social and intellectual contexts in which he worked. They are available in both diplomatic and normalised form, and from November 2013 have been linked to images of the originals held by the NLI. At the time of writing, fourteen of Newton’s original Latin productions have been translated (all but one by Michael Silverthorne).[9]

It is impossible to say exactly to what extent the religious archive as it stands was organised by Newton himself, and to what degree it has resulted from later organising efforts by his relatives, editors and owners. Fortunately, and despite the fact that the archive is now distributed across the globe, we have very good evidence that virtually nothing has been lost from the collection of papers that existed at Newton’s death. Having said that, we also know that many efforts have been made to re-order the papers by bringing together drafts or disparate documents that concern the same topic, or by joining together parts of one document that have been separated for hundreds of years.

Some of the collections that have come down to us contain a large number of much smaller documents that seem to have been put into a pile on the grounds that they belonged nowhere else. One good example is the extensive set of papers at New College Oxford (designated New College Oxford 361.2). This contains calculations associated with the second edition of the Principia, papers connected with Newton’s business at the Mint, and numerous drafts of his work on prophecy and chronology. Many of these topics can be found together on one single sheet, and often on letters addressed to Newton. Many of these pages are charred through burning, and numerous pages are genuine palimpsests whose interpretation, transcription and encoding is a monumental act of scholarly labour. For that very reason, the checking and proofing of this most resistant of documents will not occur until the spring of 2014.

The Newton Project has greatly expanded our knowledge of three aspects of Newton’s religious interests:

(i) the publication of his theological writings reveals the full range of his private religious opinions, and answers questions about his beliefs that have beguiled the curious for over three centuries. Newton’s religious nachlass has proved to be much larger and much more complex than we envisaged when we began the work fifteen years ago, and the texts available via the Newton Project are now among the largest set of religious resources for any individual. The papers demonstrate that in this field Newton was a thinker of the highest calibre and intellectual daring, though our respect for his courage may well be tempered by the fact that he published almost nothing of it in his lifetime. These would be fascinating texts if we did not know who their author was, or if we knew that they were not by Newton. As it is, the fact that they are certainly written by Newton, and that many of his most exciting non-scientific works were composed when he was at the peak of his intellectual powers (in the 1670s and 80s), allows researchers for the first time to assess the degree to which these texts are similar to his contemporary work in natural science.

Newton’s religious views covered a wide range of subjects though he did his best to avoid discussing what he thought were overly ‘metaphysical’ opinions, or those doctrines that had no basis in Scripture. He was deeply committed however, to showing how and why these same doctrines had been introduced early in the early Christian church in order to corrupt the true religion. Indeed, at every opportunity Newton used historical evidence found in the writings of the Church Fathers and others, rather than engaging in abstruse theological discussions over doctrine. It was not that he could not grasp the fine points about doctrine, but rather that he felt discussion of certain doctrines (such as the nature of God’s offer of grace, and the nature of predestination) led only to the sort of barren disputes that he condemned in the field of natural philosophy. Going far beyond what for him were permissible religious discussions, disputes over unscriptural fictions were decidedly unchristian.

Newton’s interests concerned early church history, Jewish and Christian prophecy, Scriptural exegesis, and the fate of the Noachid religion that — as he saw it — spanned the globe soon after the Flood. Some of these projects were independent of each other but from the 1670s his central interest was the rise of the Great Apostasy that (as he saw it) corrupted the Christian church in the fourth century after the birth of Jesus Christ. This had introduced the fundamental doctrines and practices of Roman Catholicism, and in his early work Newton wrote at length about how the chief perversions introduced into Christianity at this time had been engineered by the Devil himself. In assuming that Catholicism was the Devil’s own religion, Newton did not deviate markedly from the analyses offered by Anglican contemporaries such as his friend Henry More, a student of the great exegete Joseph Mede and the most prolific writer on prophecy in Restoration England. He did, however, break with almost all his contemporaries in condemning the concept of the Holy Trinity as the central doctrinal plank of that antichristian religion that came to dominate the Western world. In the domain of religion, it was his attack on the Trinity that made him cautious about revealing his true beliefs to others. The writings now published on the Newton Project website betray no evidence that Newton’s pronounced anti-Trinitarianism was engendered by contact with like-minded people, but they suggest that his deep abhorrence of the doctrine was a logical extension of his deep-seated hatred of idolatry.

Over two million of Newton’s words on the early Christian church survive, a testament to his immense efforts to document the decline and fall of the Apostolic faith. Much of the way he thought about the corruption of Christanity was, of course, premised on his beliefs about what the original form of Christianity actually was. Newton argued repeatedly was that it was a simple religion, preached to ordinary people, whose central feature was the principle of charity (or the Golden Rule) rather than any abstruse claim about the nature of Jesus Christ or about the precise manner in which he had redeemed humanity by his suffering. There were more difficult truths to be gleaned by learned men of more mature years (such as himself), but that was a different matter.

These truths concerned the meaning of prophecy and the way in which a proper understanding of church history revealed the working of the divine hand throughout history. Newton’s mastery of the historical evidence from this period — matched by only a handful of contemporaries — was energised and wholly shaped by his radical Protestant understanding of the Apocalypse. He built his system on what he believed were the core ‘discoveries’ of Mede, who described the essentials of antichristian idolatry and who argued that it was obvious that all these signs depicted Roman Catholicism. Like Mede and others working in the Protestant tradition, Newton argued that Revelation had its own internal ‘order’, and that once this was decoded, the Revelation narrative described in detail the rise and fall of Roman Catholicism. Although he agreed with Mede about the historical guilt of popery, Newton transformed Mede’s system so that his own definition of idolatry included the doctrine of the Trinity.

(ii) aside from their status as religious writings, the publication of all of Newton’s ‘spiritual workshop’ makes it possible to understand how it fits into his larger intellectual world. When the Newton Project began in 1998, scholars at that stage belonged in two main camps. Those in the first group argued on positivist grounds that Newton’s work in the exact sciences was self-evidently more ‘valuable’ than his work in other fields, and they asserted that there could be no connection whatsoever between the gold of his mathematical and scientific effusions, and the dross of his religious fancies. In the 1960s and 70s other historians reacted vigorously to this fractured view of Newton’s work, and citing new evidence from his correspondence and other papers, they argued that all of his work was interconnected in some mysterious but coherent whole.[10]

For many decades there has been a mutual incomprehension between both camps, each unwilling or more likely, unable to examine the documents that were the staple primary sources for the other side. The texts on the Newton Project site make it possible to address this issue using evidence rather than making crude a priori statements. Apart from his vaulting ambition, and what some scholars have unhelpfully termed his ‘quest for truth’, the papers reveal no empirical smoking gun that connects the disparate areas of all of his writings. However, the compartmentalised nature of his work gives little succour to positivists. Rather, a broad examination of Newton’s archive demonstrates his capacity (shared, it should be said, by his contemporaries) to work in a wide range of fields according to the narrative conventions, types of evidence, and styles of proof appropriate to each domain. Having said that, it is possible that future research will find much deeper consonances between ostensibly unrelated areas of his fields of study. For example, the future implementation on the site of new investigative tools such as Latent Semantic Analysis will allow researchers to search for the possible re-use of concepts and phrases in different domains (and, as it happens, make the task of conventional editing much easier).

(iii) The existence of these novel materials allows researchers to assess how Newton’s religious work was related to that of his contemporaries, as well as to the social, religious and political contexts in which he lived. The search for Newton’s links to his own world is complicated by the fact that with one or two exceptions, he showed little concern with publishing his religious writings, or in participating in any religious controversy. Apart from the issue of manuscript warrant for the doctrine of the Trinity, he evinced little interest in contemporary debates, and was primarily concerned with the interpretation of Revelation and the events that took place in the early church. Moreover, it remains hard to tie his writings to specific events, since neither internal evidence (from the publication date of his sources) nor physical documentary evidence (in the form of watermarks) has permitted us to date Newton’s writings in these areas with any precision. Although he was almost wholly reliant on editions produced by others, and was interested in the same topics and questions that captivated the energies of other early modern scholars, he was an independent thinker who set great store by that independence. To that extent, the theological writer betrayed exactly the same scholarly ethos as the author of the Principia.

(i) Writings on the Ancient Religion

Given both the heretical nature of many of Newton’s beliefs, and his general abhorrence of print as a vehicle for his own writings, it remains unclear what the audience was supposed to be for his draft chapters and more complete tracts. In the early to mid-1680s, he turned his attention to a series of related projects concerning what he took to be the ‘true’ ancient religion that he believed was the most ‘rational’ of all. Taken as a whole, this was an enormous undertaking that would form the basis of his more mature works on chronology in the eighteenth century. The earliest of these efforts may well be his attempt to use euhemerist techniques drawn from authors such as Gerard Vossius and Samuel Bochart in order to situate his history of the ancient religion within a genealogy of the ancient peoples of Europe and the Middle East. In another related project, he examined the ancient religion in more detail and yet another series of writings he set out to show that the ancient religion was rational precisely because it embodied a series of natural, Newtonian elements. In 1685 he summarised elements of these works in the first paragraphs of the ‘ De Motu Corporum Liber Secundus’, a work that was essentially the draft of the Third Book of the published Principia. Soon afterwards he wrote a remarkable text on the religious and scientific practices of the Ancients that was related both to his more extensive treatment of the Ancient Vestal religion and also to his draft classical scholia that he was at one time intending to include in the second edition of the Principia. Over 100,000 words of notes for these projects have been transcribed over the last five years, the most interesting probably being the notes on Ralph Cudworth’s True Intellectual System and the extended excerpts that formed the basis of his ‘classical scholia’.

By the early eighteenth century Newton had greatly expanded his knowledge of the political and religious state of the ancient world. The most extensive of his drafts for a comprehensive chronology of the ancient world are now published, all for the first time. Although hyperbole about Newton’s erudition can be wearing, these texts show that he had a mastery of a vast range of sources and facts that he had brought together — using a series of interpretive principles — into one coherent whole. When these views were published in a truncated form in his 1728 Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended, critics took issue with the ways in which he had used his principles — as well as evidence from astronomy — to lop off many centuries from the histories of ancient kingdoms given by historians from different cultures.[11]

(ii) Writings on Scriptural exegesis

The fascinating analysis of textual corruption that Newton sent to Locke in November 1690 reveals both his doctrinal commitments and also his capacity to generate in a matter of months an extended, innovative tract on a particular topic. Newton argued that all putative Trinitarian proof-texts were either forgeries, inserted by ignorant or scheming priests, or had been misinterpreted by Catholics and Protestants to the present day. Newton already had a serious interest in supposed corruptions of Scripture, notably (as many of his contemporaries also did) in the history of 1 John 5:7-8 and 1 Timothy 3:16. The background to the creation of this text has been examined elsewhere, but the Newton Project now provides a rich set of resources for understanding how Newton’s various attempts to ascertain the truth about these documents were part of a much larger analysis of the general corruption of Christianity in the early Christian church. The texts on the project site include Hopton Haynes’s 1709 translation of the work.

One of the most remarkable and technically demanding documents (both to decipher and encode) published by the Project over the last five years was the result of a request to Newton made in 1693 by the Oxford divine John Mill, who had known Newton for around a decade. Mill asked Newton to send a list of variant readings of the Apocalypse from his own notes on various printed sources such as Brian Walton’s Polyglot, as well as gleanings he had noticed in two manuscripts owned by their mutual friend John Covel. Newton, who had made short records of textual variants in the past, made two lengthy sets of notes of variant readings and sent them to Mill, who recorded his gratitude for Newton’s extraordinary labours in two letters. Ultimately, he included a number of Newton’s observations in his variorum New Testament of 1707.

(iii) Writings on Prophecy and Jewish Worship

The Project has also published all the documents relating to Newton’s work on the dimensions of Solomon’s Temple and the practices of the people who worshipped within it. Newton believed that the dimensions of objects mentioned in Old Testament prophecy had a figurative or non-literal meaning (so prophetic days meant real years). Understanding Jewish religious practices, and in particular the spatial structure of worship, was crucial because it was the key to understanding the Apocalypse, whose setting was the holiest part of the Temple. The inner court, for example, represented the chosen people while the outer court represented the gentiles; specific religious rituals described in the Old Testament or the writings of Josephus and others were referenced by the account of heaven in the first chapters of Revelation. Nevertheless, Newton’s ‘ Prolegomena’, his extended analysis of Ezekiel and other books connected with the dimensions of the temple, is not primarily concerned with typology but with ascertaining the exact dimensions (in terms of cubits) and structure of the temple. The Project has also published and transcribed texts that are closely related to the ‘Prolegomena’, both offering detailed accounts of the internal structure of Solomon’s Temple and its copies. In this context it is also worth mentioning the notes Newton took from Maimonides’s De Cultu Divino, which was a major source for those contemporaries of Newton who wrote on the size and shape of the Temple.

Although the Project published three extensive prophetic treatises between 2004 and 2007, it transcribed an even greater amount of prophecy-related material between January 2008 and December 2013. On the basis of internal evidence, Newton’s small and unfinished essay on Christ’s Second Coming and the Day of Judgment can be related to the lengthy treatise on prophecy known to have been composed between 1684 and 1689. However, the largest portion of writings on prophecy was composed in the last three decades of his life. The monumental redraftings of his work on prophecy, transcribed and encoded from 2009-13, explore the relationships between Old Testament prophecy and its fulfilment both in the life and deeds of Christ and in the events of the early Christian church.

(iv) Writings on the early Christian church

Among the vast range of textual fragments that make up Newton’s oeuvre are a series of fascinating individual chapters on the early church whose inter-relationships are as yet undetermined. One of these is an extraordinary Proemium to a multiple volume work on early church history. As an account of the rise of the monastic orders it is unique among Newton’s writings for its explicit treatment of the ascetic practices carried out by the first monks, and for those interested, it gives the best evidence of Newton’s sexual proclivities. Another stray chapter offers a detailed account of the way Athanasius (as Newton saw it) had corrupted the writings of the ante-Nicene writers in order to make the early Church Fathers more orthodox, and a lengthy essay deals with the discussions at Alexandria between the bishop of the city, Alexander, and the presbyter Arius, which gave rise to the great Arian controversies in the 320s and 30s. Newton gave vent to his dislike of the morals and machinations of Constantine, whose personal behaviour and interference in religious affairs he condemned in the harshest terms. Finally, in a much longer tract Newton brought together many of the analyses found in draft chapters elsewhere in his writings to provide a large and coherent narrative of the nature and origins of the Arian controversy.

The relationship between the hundreds of thousands of raw notes that remain in his archive, and the more polished writings on prophecy, chronology and church history will take many years to study — though this undertaking is made much easier by the fact that the writings are in digital form. There are a number of documents that contain the raw materials of Newton’s key work in these areas, including some of his notesfrom Book One, Tome 2 of Petavius’s (Petau’s) Dogmata Theologica, and a vast reservoir of excerpts (NLI Yahuda Ms. 14) from Baronius’s Annals and various editions of the Church Fathers. Another set of documents, now classified under one heading (NLI Yahuda Ms. 2.5b), is made up of a number of different notes from primary sources along with parts of longer tracts composed by Newton. Occasionally Newton’s writings either degenerate into notes or they are in fact composed of lengthy quotations from original sources, with the odd bridging sentence that indicates that the text is in fact to be classed as one of Newton’s own texts.

(v) Calendrical reform and natural theology

The Project has published a number of texts related to calendrical reform, a subject in which Newton took a keen interest when he moved to London in 1696. This was in connection with the irregularities regarding the dating of Easter created by the Julian calendar, which Protestant England and Scotland still used. Some of Newton’s ideas for making religious festivals more consistent across Christendom (allegedly twice as accurate as was possible within the Gregorian calendar) were radical for the time, but some of them were adopted when the Julian calendar was finally abandoned in 1752.

Although the scholar of Newton’s working practices is drawn to the most heavily re-worked and intractable documents, many provide much easier pickings. At the start of 2008 the Project published full diplomatic transcriptions of the short but fascinating correspondence that Newton conducted with Thomas Burnet in the winter of 1680-1. Burnet sought reassurance from the Lucasian Professor in connection with his Telluris Theoria Sacra (Sacred Theory of the Earth), the first volume of which appeared in 1681. Burnet offered a sophisticated, physical account of the creation of the cosmos, arguing that Moses had delivered a false theory of Creation that was rendered acceptable to the inferior mental and physical faculties of the vulgar. Newton responded politely but negatively, arguing that Moses’s account had been ‘accommodated’ to the vulgar but was not for that reason false. Burnet’s story, he said, was plausible but in key places he had effectively exchanged his own views in the place of what was clearly stated in Genesis. As evidence for Newton’s interest in natural theology, the Burnet correspondence should be examined alongside Newton’s exchanges with Richard Bentley in the winter of 1692-3, which the Newton Project published early on in its existence.

(vi) The notes of Barnabas Smith

Lastly, among of the highlights of the series of texts published over the last three years are writings that are not by Newton himself, but which were composed by his step-father, Barnabas Smith. Those acquainted with the history of Newton’s childhood will be aware that his mother left the home at Woolsthorpe Manor to become the wife of Smith, the rector of the local parish of North Witham. Of the ten year period during which Newton was brought up at the Manor by his maternal grandmother, he left only one direct piece of evidence. This testimony, in which he remembered wanting to burn down the house that his mother and step-father slept in, is all the more remarkable in that he recorded it almost ten years after the thought must have occurred. William Stukeley told John Conduitt that Newton inherited the 200 or 300 volumes of theological texts left by Smith at his death, but he also managed to acquire Smith’s theological notebook.

As we shall see below, Smith’s notebook became the ‘Wastebook’ in which Newton expressed many of his most important early mathematical discoveries. Smith listed a large series of theological topics alphabetically; the date of these mainly Latin entries is unknown, and they could have been made at any time in the half-century before his death in 1653. In his own theological notebook, Newton organised his theological notes in a similar form (as did most others), but he seems to have drawn nothing from his step-father’s jottings. A detailed study of these notes, and of Smith’s theological views is yet to be made, and as a result of this we may be in a better position to understand whether Smith, or Newton’s maternal uncle William Aiscough, played a larger role in Newton’s religious upbringing. In any case, it is obvious that Newton’s mature radical doctrinal commitments left him with little in common with Smith’s orthodox concerns. However, it is the jarring disjunction between the theological content of Smith’s notes and the innovative mathematical work of his step-son, with a line drawn between the two sets of entries, that is the most visually striking.

B. The Mathematical and Scientific Papers

By the end of 2007, it had become obvious that in order to make use of the full power of the digital medium, and to allow the religious materials to be understood in the contexts of Newton’s other work, the Project was obliged to incorporate into the edition the totality of his work in the exact sciences. The Newton Project accordingly made a series of bids to fund the transcription of Newton’s key writings in these areas and as a consequence, the project has published in full his key notebooks in science and mathematics, along with his subsequent enhancement of the key ideas contained within them. The significance of these texts for the history of the exact sciences cannot be overestimated. The transcribed notebooks and early writings in mechanics and mathematics contain all the documentary remains of Newton’s pioneering work on the calculus, the binomial theorem and the value for acceleration due to gravity. Newton wrote down his most important mathematical discoveries in these texts, and to some extent he made these discoveries through the acts of writing them. For the first time they are available in their entirety, with links to high quality images of the originals at CUDL. In many cases these documents have been embedded in the digital infrastructure at Cambridge that permits the side-by-side viewing of the transcription and the image.

(i) Component JISC projects

The transcription and publication of these documents has been made possible by two awards from JISC in 2009 and 2011. In ‘Enlightening Science’ the project used Enlightenment popularisations of Newton’s scientific work to convey basic principles of physics to modern day audiences. We worked with a number of schools and other institutions and pioneered the use of videos both to record interviews with historians of science and to capture the recreation of core Newtonian experiments from the eighteenth century. Directed by Iliffe, the project published a series of podcasts and a wide range of lectures and popular texts from the eighteenth century that now constitute one of the most popular parts of the site.

The second JISC project, ‘Windows on Genius’, designed and directed by Iliffe, allowed us to publish in full the texts of all of Newton’s pioneering work on the method of series and fluxions (as he named the differential and integral calculus), the binomial theorem, and the genesis of the Principia Mathematica. JISC-funded work on this project was carried out between March and December 2011, and it remains an on-going and highly successful collaboration with Cambridge University Digital library to make images of Newton’s foundational scientific and mathematical works accessible alongside searchable transcriptions of the materials. The transcriptions of Newton’s two Cambridge mathematical notebooks alone took two and a half years, and presented unprecedented encoding problems both in terms of representing the original features of Newton’s notation, and also of displaying the layout of the mathematics systematically and precisely across different browsers. About 45% of the content of each of these documents is now published for the first time, and in unprecedented detail. The availability of these documents, along with later texts that develop their ideas, allows researchers to examine all the contexts necessary for understanding the evolution of his ideas. Secondly, and for the first time, researchers can see specific arguments and projects that have previously been uprooted from their original contexts setting now replaced in their correct position within the document.

(ii) The Optical Papers

The Newton Project now offers unrivalled resources for studying Newton’s pioneering studies in the field of optics. The last of his letters on optical subjects were published in 2012-13, but it is now possible to track the development of Newton’s optical thought in its entirety. His undergraduate philosophy notebook and his subsequent essay ‘ Of Colours’ show in detail the development of his theory of light and colours, according to which white light was understood to be composed of more basic (primary) colour-making rays. Initially he discovered that individual rays each had their own specific index of refraction (or as he put it, ‘degree of refrangibility’), so that given the same angle of incidence of a ray of sunlight entering a given prism at minimum deviation, red rays would always be refracted at a specific angle, and so would yellow and purple rays. Then, in a dramatic assault on all previous theories (whether Aristotelian or ‘mechanical’), Newton argued that colour did not arise from the transformation or modification of light as it passed from one medium to another, but instead it was an original property of specific ‘colour-making’ rays. Bodies possessed the colours they did only because they were ‘disposed’ to reflect some colours and to absorb others. When primary rays were brought together again by a subtle arrangement of prisms or by introducing a lens, white light would result. This was essentially the theory of the heterogeneity of white light that Newton announced in his famous paper on light and colours of February 1672.

During what was later termed his ‘annus mirabilis’ of 1666, Newton composed an essay on refraction, which he entered into his mathematical notebook (see below). At the outset of his 1672 paper, Newton claimed that he had begun to grind non-spherical (hyperbolic, parabolic or elliptical) lenses at the start of 1666. Probably inspired by reading Hooke’s Micrographia, he had bought a triangular prism to reproduce the experiment in Descartes’s Dioptrique (Newton used the Latin edition of 1650), where the latter had reproduced the colours of the rainbow by shining a white light through a prism. In his earlier essay on refraction, his interest in improving refracting telescopes took him back to Descartes’s equally important remarks on the sine law of refraction where Descartes had announced that because of the law, spherical lenses could not bring parallel rays to an exact focus. ‘Of Refractions’ recorded Newton’s practical efforts to grind glass in non-spherical conic sections.[12]

In the end, if we are to believe Newton in his 1672 paper, it was his discovery that primary coloured rays have intrinsically different indexes of refraction, and that there were constraints on the exactitude of images that could be produced by even the most perfectly ground non-spherical lenses, that made him end his “Glass works”. The text shows Newton’s immense self-confidence and his talent for building practical devices, a continuation of the early tendency noted by his school friends and much later, by William Stukeley. It was this proclivity, of course, along with his understanding of the limits to simple refracting telescopes caused by chromatic aberration, which would lead him to make the first working reflecting telescope some time in 1668.

In December 2013 the Project published a diplomatic transcription of an earlier version of the optical lectures that Newton delivered as his first Lucasian lectures from January 1670. Neither these, the ‘ Lectiones Opticae’, nor a later version (designated by Alan Shapiro as ‘Optica’) are the verbatim accounts of the lectures Newton gave in 1670-1 and indeed they are different versions of a longer tract that he was intending (at one stage) to publish alongside a magnificent treatise on calculus and infinite series. By giving lectures on the topic of optics, Newton was following the path laid out by Isaac Barrow, his predecessor as Lucasian Professor. The first two lectures proved that sunlight consists of rays that have different indexes of refraction, and then from lecture 3 Newton discoursed at length on the nature of colours. It was in the third lecture that Newton for the first time pleaded that mathematics should play a central role in natural philosophy — and that there could be a mathematical science of colours. Lecture 9 as having been given in July 1670) was the first of three lectures on the subject of measuring refractions, and the remainder of the lectures concerned various propositions that followed from his analysis to that point. In the ‘Optica’ (which is being transcribed by the Newton Project throughout 2014), Newton reversed the order of the sections on colour and measuring refractions.[13]

In 2007, a substantial grant from the Royal Society enabled us to begin work on transcribing the extensive manuscript drafts of the ‘Queries’ that Newton appended to the successive editions of his Opticks, along with full transcriptions of all the printed editions of that text ( 1704, 1706 and 1717/18). The transcription and encoding of the drafts were completed in 2008 and they were published online in the same year. The published ‘Queries’ were presented by their ultra-cautious author in a tentative and hypothetical form, but there is no doubt that they, and their drafts, represent his private views on various philosophical subjects such as the nature of life, electricity, gravity, force, the mind-body problem, and the relationship between God and his creation. Whatever Newton’s views about their epistemic status, the ‘Queries’ appended to the 1717/18 edition of Opticks cast in a more acceptable language his long held views about the existence of an ‘aether’, to which he had been committed since he was a student. The topics of the ‘Queries’ show a substantial degree of continuity with earlier projects conducted within alchemy, and many of them contained results from experiments on electricity and light that were conducted under Newton’s direction while he was president of the Royal Society. Many of the claims articulated in them are impossible to reconcile with the doctrines and general approach of the Principia Mathematica, but his views on the aether would exert an immense influence on natural philosophy throughout the eighteenth century.

(iii) The ‘Mathematical Notebook’ and the ‘Waste book’

The first of two major student documents published in full for the first time, the so-called ‘ Mathematical notebook’, records Newton’s initial engagement with the works of Johannes Hudde, François Viète, René Descartes, Frans van Schooten and John Wallis. Some of these researches may have been inspired by the lectures of the first Lucasian professor, Isaac Barrow (which began in the spring of 1664), though it is more likely that Newton had guidance on what books to read from Barrow himself. In any case, the content of his first notes shows that he was quickly able to engage in independent and original research. Later accounts of his initial problematic encounter with Euclid’s Elements and then his engagement with Descartes’s Géometrie (in van Schooten’s Latin edition) and Wallis’s Arithmetica Infinitorum — based on the memorandum of Abraham de Moivre (and Newton’s own recollections) — have become famous. However, the documentary history of Newton’s early researches is now for the first time available in its entirety. The first excerpts in the notebook concern the extraction of square, cube and higher roots and are from Schooten’s 1646 edition of Viète’s Opera Mathematica. Nothing in theseearly notes indicates that their author was about to engage in one of the most fertile bursts of creativity in the history of mathematics. [14]

The other great research notebook published in full by the Newton Project for the first time is the ‘ Waste Book’. Originally his step-father Barnabas Smith’s theological notebook (see above), Newton recorded his earliest investigations into reflection and refraction and at some point wrote down a fascinating list of all the problems he believed remained to be determined by mathematicians of his generation. He would go on to tackle nearly all of them, mostly with great success. From the summer of 1664 Newton immersed himself in Descartes’s great mathematical work Géometrie, available to him in van Schooten’s second Latin edition. In a number of research projects beginning the winter of 1664/5 (ff. 30v-33v and 47r-50r), he examined equations for both basic and complicated curves. At the start of 1665, in research written down in the mathematical notebook (ff. 93v-116r and 120r-149r) he extended Descartes’s techniques for constructing subtangents and subnormals to curves. By the summer of 1665 he had mastered these, and could derive the tangent to any curve by assuming that two lines converged to meet at a single point on a circle whose circumference coincided with the curve in question. These researches would culminate in Newton’s expression of the fundamental algorithm for determining the tangent at any point (“An universall theorem for tangents to crooked lines”) to a wide variety of curves — what we now call the differential calculus.[15]

Among the most important entries in the Mathematical notebook are the notes that start on fol. 15r, which record Newton’s reading of Wallis’s Arithmetica Infinitorum in the winter of 1664/5. Momentously, Newton soon developed various techniques published in Wallis’s book and discovered the generalised binomial theorem that allowed him to expand expressions of the form (a + x) m/n for negative and fractional powers. Newton later developed these foundational researches on the binomial theorem. Further notes from Arithmetica Infinitorum represent his initial confrontation with ‘the theory of indivisibles’, ‘squaring’ or ‘quadratures’, an approach to the calculation of areas under curves and volumes of that would evolve into the nascent version of what we now term the integral calculus. At about the same time, if not before, Newton began to use integral tables to solve anti-differentiation problems, in what was known as the ‘inverse problem of tangents’. Newton would be the first mathematician to understand and express the inverse relationship between the differential and integral calculus, articulating this in his great 1666 paper discussed below.[16]

(iv) Mathematical tracts

Another collection of texts represent extensions and more polished versions of work already done in the notebooks. Newton’s justly famous mathematical tract of October 1666, is made up of a series of propositions giving procedures for resolving increasingly complex problems by motion, that is, by treating various points that mark out various curves as if the points moved with a ‘velocity’ in time through a virtual space. Newton had developed this technique while in Lincolnshire the previous Autumn (again conceivably gleaned from Barrow’s lectures), and it was as a result of this that he coined the term ‘fluxion’ (its instantaneous rate of change, or what we now call a derivative), which became the general term he used to describe his method. The approach blurred the division between mathematics and mechanics, and many early propositions in the 1666 tract deal with rotations of planes and figures, and with the location of centres of gravity. In this work Newton wrote down for the first time in a systematic way the basic rules for finding the ‘tangent’ to a curve at any point and for finding the areas of surfaces bounded by curves and the volumes of three-dimensional figures. He also expressed his finding that the methods of tangents and quadratures (differentiation and integration) were inverse operations.[17]

Newton’s early ‘ Laws of Motion’, which date from about the same time, are unrelated to the more famous laws that formed the basis of the Principia Mathematica. They extend and attempt to formalise studies already carried out under the heading ‘ Of Reflections’ in the ‘Waste Book’ on rules concerning the impact of two bodies. As earlier, Newton was more interested in analysing the total force required to keep a body revolving around a central point. This fact betrays his underlying interest in the analysis of orbital dynamics, and shows his commitment to the view that such motion was to be analysed in terms of infinitesimally small ‘impacts’ that prevented an orbiting body from moving in a straight line along its tangent (and away from the centre of revolution). In the later work Newton generalised earlier findings that were based on various conservation principles and was the first to express the area law for central force motion (what we nowadays identify as the principle of conservation of angular momentum).

Newton first came to prominence when his paper on the analysis of equations by infinite series was circulated in the summer of 1669 to a group of London mathematicians by Barrow and the mathematical intelligencer John Collins (see below). This, Newton’s most notorious mathematical work on account of its key role in the priority dispute with Leibniz, summarised and extended the results of his work to that point and was effectively his first publication, albeit in a non-printed or ‘scribal’ form. Although its contents went unheralded at the time, probably because none of its readers could grasp the magnitude of what he had done, Newton expressed three basic ‘rules’ for integrating simple curves. Collins made a point of contacting Newton and meeting him when the latter, now enshrined as Barrow’s successor in the Lucasian chair, travelled to London in late November. Newton initially impressed Collins by showing that he had contrived infinite (converging) series for log (1 + x) as well as for a number of other curves or ‘crooked lines’. Others, most notably Nicolas Mercator, had developed series that enabled them to determine the areas under various curves by creating infinite series for various curves and integrating them term-by-term. Despite his reticence in revealing his underlying methods, or indeed any of his work at all, Newton was however, far ahead of contemporaries. De Analysi was the result of Newton’s reading of the work (passed to him via Barrow, who had received it from Collins) and his recognition that he had to write something fast in order to secure his own priority.[18]

Newton did not accede to Collins’s requests to publish ‘De Analysi’ in print, but despite himself, he almost became a mathematical author in the early 1670s. One project would have shown that Newton was a master of modern algebra while the second would have demonstrated beyond question that he was the greatest mathematician of the modern world. The first was a result of Collins’s invitation to Newton to write an introduction to Gerard Kinckhuysen’s Algebra, which Collins had recently had translated (by Mercator) from Dutch into Latin. Despite initial confusion about his precise role in the business, Newton spent some time composing ‘Observations’ on the work, sending Collins an extensive text in July 1670. Although the level of sophistication Newton brought to his task went far beyond what he found in the object text, the project was never completed — in part because Newton was uncomfortable with features of his authorial role, and in part because he did not believe he had ‘finished’ the work. Having made a swift copy, Collins returned the work at Newton’s request, but despite revising it over the Autumn, Newton was never satisfied with the project. This did not, however, stop the high quality of his performance from becoming known to others such as John Wallis, who recommended its publication.[19]

The second of these projects was much more substantial. Newton completed the ‘Observations’ over the winter of 1670/1 but at some point he considered that his reputation would be better served by revealing the extent of his mathematical accomplishments. In July 1671 he told Collins that on Barrow’s advice he had completely reworked or ‘methodiz’d’ ‘De Analysi’ over the previous winter, working on it continuously until being called back to family business in Lincolnshire in mid-April. Continuing to frame his object of study as a point carving out a curve by moving through a space over time, he extended and systematised his work in the 1666 tract and in ‘de Analysi’.[20]

(v) Principia -related texts

Finally, as part of ‘Windows on Genius’, the Newton Project transcribed and published all the texts relating to the initial publication of the Principia Mathematica in 1687. Famously, Newton sent a small tract entitled ‘De motu corporum in gyrum’ to Edmond Halley some time in November 1684, three months after being prompted to do so by a visit from Halley. At the start of the year Halley had discussed orbital dynamics with Robert Hooke and Christopher Wren. All of them agreed that planets moved in regular conic sections and that the force that kept planets in orbits around the sun was inversely proportional to the square of their distance from it. The problem that Halley brought to Newton was whether and how one could demonstrate that planetary orbits arose from the inverse-square law; Newton claimed that he had such a demonstration but had been unable to give it to Halley at their meeting.[21]

The original ‘De motu’ offered embryonic versions of the first two of what are now known as Newton’s Three Laws of Motion. Beyond this, Newton introduced the notion of ‘centripetal force’ and showed that an elliptical orbit implied an inverse-square law. He also noted that the same law implied an elliptical orbit when the velocity of the orbiting body fell between certain parameters. He extended his approach to other heavenly bodies, in that the analysis applied to the Moon, the satellites of Jupiter, and the orbits of planets around the sun. It used a combination of techniques that allowed him to investigate centrally directed force (to the focus of an ellipse) in terms of continuously exerted force away from a tangential/ inertial path. Newton made use of the Galilean law for terrestrial acceleration due to gravity, as well as Kepler’s so-called Second Law, which held that with respect to one of two foci, the areas swept out by orbiting bodies were proportional to the time taken. Although the treatise dealt in the main with motion through void spaces, a small part of it did deal with motion in resisting media. This topic would swell to take up the entire second book of the 1687 Principia.

Newton revised the tract in early 1685, and statements that had been ‘hypotheses’ now became ‘laws’. He now dealt more seriously with the conceptual basis of his physics and referred to an immense immovable space that existed as what we would call a privileged frame of reference. Having realised that the issue of whether moving objects were in a state of ‘moving’ or ‘at rest’ depended on the frame of reference, Newton’s invocation of absolute space allowed him to pick out absolute or real motion. This left his treatment consistent with the denunciation of the Cartesian account of real motion he had expressed in his ‘ De Gravitatione’ of the previous decade. Further revisions of ‘De motu’ were carried out in the spring of 1685, and Newton strove to define much more clearly key terms in his physics such as ‘inertia’, ‘force’, ‘density’, and the pairs of absolute and relative space and time. These texts contain the dynamic thought processes behind what would become the most important contribution to modern science.[22]

Throughout the summer and autumn of 1685 Newton developed a two book treatise whose second part was entitled De motu Corporum Liber Secundus. By now Newton had realised that there had to be mutual attraction between the heavenly bodies he had analysed in earlier versions of ‘De motu’, and from this he arrived at the momentous conception that all bodies in the cosmos attracted every other body. Elements of ‘body’, which Newton would define as mass, attracted other bodies according to the product of the masses divided by the square of the distance between them (and multiplied by a constant). Now he began to use universal gravitation to explain the phenomena of tides and comets, as well as the complex issue of the motion of the moon. The ‘liber secundus’ was written in a ‘popular style’ (as Newton would later put it), but this, and the analysis of comets within it, proved unsatisfactory. After an altercation with Hooke that occurred in the summer of 1686, Newton transformed the content and presentation of the liber secundus so that the published version (Book Three) in the Principia was far less accessible, and far more technically demanding than what he had produced in the draft.[23]

C. The Mathematical and Scientific Correspondence

Funded by two substantial private donations, the Project has worked in cooperation with Cambridge University Library and the Royal Society since 2010 in order to produce high quality encoded transcriptions of Newton’s mathematical and scientific correspondence. By the end of 2013 the Project had completed the transcription of all the pre-1700 correspondence in these collections, comprising virtually all the surviving material relating to the background to and reception of Newton’s seventeenth century work in optics, physics and mathematics. The Project also has an agreement with the Royal Society to reproduce all the existing notes and annotations that can be found in the printed edition of Newton’s correspondence, but by providing the facility to link between correspondence and private notebooks, so that Newton’s processes of selection in releasing material can be discerned, the online edition can of course offer much more for the researcher. Where the print edition usually ignored textual emendations we provide full diplomatic/normalised transcriptions of these texts. As indicated earlier, in collaboration with CUDL we are continuing to make images of the originals available alongside the transcriptions throughout 2014.

The Newton correspondence is without doubt the best known in the history of science, and the Newton Project has made full, diplomatic transcriptions of these materials available to the general public for the first time. A number of these documents are particularly significant. In the earliest, we see Newton making the first announcement of his construction of a reflecting telescope, and the following letters display the close contact that Newton developed with the London mathematical intelligencer John Collins (1625-83). Newton sent Collins a number of letters in the early 1670s and Collins quickly recognised that apart from anything else, Newton’s methods were of great use for colleagues such as Michael Dary who were interested in the application of Newton’s techniques to calculating annuities and other ‘practical’ topics. Collins’s métier was of course, the promotion of mathematics by encouraging the circulation and publication of work, and given Newton’s studied dislike of the printed sphere as a vehicle for disseminating his findings it is remarkable that he and Newton were able to remain in contact for the best part of a decade.

In addition to this, the Newton Project has published all the correspondence that passed between Newton and Henry Oldenburg between 1672 and 1676. Most of this concerned the repercussions of Newton’s famous paper on light and colours, which was originally sent to Oldenburg in February 1672 and which Oldenburg very quickly published in the Philosophical Transactions. The collection does however include the famous pair of letters (the epistola prior and epistola posterior) that were sent to Oldenburg in 1676 to be passed on to Leibniz, and which would feature in the notorious early eighteenth century priority dispute over the invention of calculus. Many of these letters should be considered major tracts in their own right, such as Newton’s impassioned response to Hooke’s views on his theory, his ‘ Hypothesis’ concerning light and colours that was read at the Royal Society in the winter of 1675-6 (and a draft of which was published for the first time in 2011), the significant ‘ Discourse’ of observations on various aspects of colour that accompanied the ‘Hypothesis’, and the letter to Robert Boyle of February 1679 in which Newton expanded on views on the physical structure of the cosmos that he had detailed in his ‘Hypothesis’.[24]

D. Political materials

In addition to the religious and scientific materials, the Newton Project has now released all the documents relating to Newton’s brief foray into politics between 1687 and 1690. Even before he had completed the last of the three books that made up his Principia Mathematica, he became heavily embroiled in the defence of the Protestant character of his university. In early 1687, the Roman Catholic king James II claimed the right to dispense with statutes in Sidney Sussex College Cambridge preventing Catholics from taking degrees, and on 9 February he issued a mandamus compelling the college to grant an MA to the Benedictine monk Father Alban Francis. Newton put himself forward to defend the university against what he took to be unconscionable interference and on 11 April he was elected to represent the university senate in front of the newly re-instituted Ecclesiastical High Commission, headed by the notorious ‘hanging judge’ George Jeffreys. After a preliminary meeting and two delays, the main encounter took place at the Serjeants Inn, Fleet Street, on 7 May. The university vice-chancellor, John Peachell, was dismissed from his position, but the senate deputies heard their fate a few days later. Jeffreys told them that the Commission’s gripe was with Peachell, but that the deputies were by no means blameless, being insolently unwilling to accede to the monarch’s express commands.

Newton knew of the mandamus within days of its arrival at the vice-chancellor’s office and had his amanuensis Humphrey Newton copy out a letter (dated 19 February) that outlined the options facing the university. He was a elected as a non-regent messenger of the senate on 11 March tasked with conveying the sense of the body to the vice-chancellor. In a much later reminiscence, Newton told John Conduitt that following his later election as one of the eight deputies ordered to appear before the High Commission he had been crucial in stiffening the resolve of the senate to resist the mandamus and not to allow it as a fait accompli that would not constitute a precedent. He must have spent most of the spring engrossed in the legality of the issues underlying the case, and had Humphrey copy out a number of papers relevant to the defence. Among these one of the most significant is the draft of a speech, quite possibly the one he remembered in his reminiscence, in which he argued that it would be foolish to give up the laws underpinning the religion of the university in favour of a “bare promise” of a Catholic monarch to respect and safeguard the religion of the university. Other texts show that Newton made copious notes on reports of a recent test case that had confirmed the legality of the king’s dispensing power, and he turned these into a short essay on that same power — whose legality he effectively denied. Finally, Newton played a key role in drafting the response given by the university delegation at their appearance before the Commission on 7 May 1687.

Energised by his defence of the privileges of the university, and of course by the success of the Principia Mathematica, Newton was emboldened to seek a senior administrative post in the summer of 1689. He alighted upon the provostship of King’s College, an institution adjacent to Trinity that had suffered more than its fair share of mandated intruders in the previous half century. Having just lambasted the way in which James II had tried to subvert the Protestant constitutions of colleges in the two universities by claiming that he could dispense with some of their statues, Newton now defended the idea that the statutes of King’s college were technically in the possession of the king. Thus, William III could in practice dispense with the problematic demands that the Provost be in holy orders and also a fellow or graduate of the college. Newton used his contacts in parliament to help him draw up a ‘ Case’ in which he dealt with precedents that were helpful to his cause. Although he had the backing of senior government officials, as well as Christiaan Huygens and his bother Constantijn (the secretary to William III), the college fellows were in no mood to allow an unqualified person, even the author of the Principia, to become their head. Newton’s defeat was the first of many setbacks he experienced over the following years in his quest to obtain a major administrative position. His travails came to an end in the spring of 1696, when he became Warden of the Royal Mint, rising to become Master of the same institution in 1699. He was to retain this position until his death in early 1727, and the Project is currently seeking funding to produce an edition of Newton’s important work in this area.

E. Historical contextual materials

In the period 2004-7 the Newton Project was able to provide an extensive range of contextual material for understanding Newton’s writings, including encoded transcriptions of all of the substantial Conduitt papers housed at King’s College Cambridge, all of the unpublished writings on Newton composed by his friend William Stukeley, and images of all of the relevant holdings related to Newton in the papers of John Maynard Keynes. Keynes bought up as many of Newton’s alchemical papers as he could from the 1936 Sotheby Sale of Newton’s non-scientific papers, and generously donated these materials to King’s College along with the Conduitt papers.

Since January 2008, the Newton Project has continued to provide additional contextual materials in order to understand how Newton’s core doctrines were taught and popularised in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These include the full text of John Harris’s Astronomical Dialogues of 1719, a classical exemplar of ‘polite science’ that shows how knowledge of contemporary natural philosophy — particularly for women — was an essential qualification for participating in genteel society. Although Pierre Moreau de Maupertuis and Voltaire both published popularisations of Newtonian science in the 1730s, the most influential Newtonian text in the middle of the century was Francesco Algarotti’s Newton’s Philosophy Explain’d for the Use of the Ladies (and vol. II) translated into English by Elizabeth Carter in 1739. Another best-selling popularisation of Newtonianism was the wonderful book by the published John Newbury, who made a small boy (‘Tom Telescope’) the author and narrator of a book on basic natural philosophy. Tom lambasted his friends for wasting their time on frivolous pastimes, but pointed out that many of their games (with balls, hoops and lenses) gave insight into serious scientific principles. Finally the Project allows readers to access Benjamin Martin’s printed exposition of his immensely popular course of lectures in natural philosophy.

The Newton Project has also added transcriptions of all the major biographical works published on Newton, so that all of the serious biographies of Newton written in the two centuries after his death are available for researchers. Following the earlier publication of works by Sir David Brewster and John Flamsteed, the Project added the 1833 English language translation of Jean-Baptiste Biot’s famous biography of Newton, in which the great French scientist revealed for the first time that Newton had suffered some sort of ‘derangement of the intellect’ in 1693. In response to these works, Thomas Galloway, the Scottish mathematician and Amicable Life actuary, published two reviews of the products emanating from the embryonic Newton industry; one of Brewster and Biot’s writings, and the other of the extraordinary claims about Newton’s pathological skulduggery made by Flamsteed that were reproduced by Francis Baily in 1836. The mathematician Augustus de Morgan, who doubted many of the claims made by Brewster in his 1831 Life of Newton, published a significant Newton biography of his own in 1846 but in 1855 Brewster attempted to have the last word in his magnificent appreciation of Newton’s life and works. Reviewers such as de Morgan and Baden Powell (Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford) took issue with many of Brewster’s claims — especially about Newton’s religious beliefs. Of all the Victorian biographers of Newton, De Morgan really did have the last word. In a posthumously published book he discoursed at length on one of his favourite subjects, namely Newton’s moral conduct in allegedly countenancing a secret relationship and clandestine marriage between his patron Charles Montagu (the earl of Halifax after 1700) and his half-niece Catherine Conduitt.

Finally, a major resource for historians of Newton’s theology can be found in the translation made by Charles Sumner in 1825 of the lengthy manuscript ‘ De Doctrina Christiana’ completed by John Milton in the early 1660s. Although they differed over specific details, Milton shared Newton’s abhorrence of the doctrine of the Trinity, and over a number of years wrote ‘De Doctrina’ as a long exposition of what he took to be the simple Creed of Jesus Christ and the Apostles. The lengthy text is now made freely available for the first time and its publication allows scholars to compare and contrast the way that these two great figures of early modern England understood the Bible, Christ and the nature of Christian government.

4. Personnel

The Newton Project was originally housed at Imperial College London under the directorship of Rob Iliffe; it moved with Iliffe to the University of Sussex in 2007. Iliffe has overall responsibility for IP issues, personnel management, fundraising for the constituent parts of the Newton Project, and the academic quality of the resources. Mike Hawkins has been the Technical Director of the project since 2002, and has full responsibility for the technical aspects of the project. This includes undertaking all the development work underlying the project’s functionality, managing the project’s digital assets as well as updating and maintaining the Newton Project website. The preparation of encoded transcriptions is the core business of the Newton Project.[25] For a decade John Young produced the majority of text on the site and throughout its existence he has ensured that the transcriptions conform to the best practices enjoined by the TEI guidelines. Young accomplished the crucial preliminary task of establishing detailed transcription and tagging guidelines, and with Iliffe and Peter Spargo he was responsible for completing the online catalogue of Newton’s theological, alchemical and administrative papers, which was released in 2001 and which continues to provide the organising structure of the project materials. For the last three years Daniele Cassisa has been the chief transcriber of Newton’s writings in the exact sciences, and he has developed new ways of using MathML to represent both the meaning and the structure of the pioneering mathematical and scientific work that Newton undertook early in his career.[26]

Appendix: The Web, Editorial Selection, and the Limits of Print

It has long been recognised that classical print editions have suffered from a number of drawbacks, primarily associated with sometimes overly aggressive editorial interventions and with the principles guiding the selection of various materials. The editor’s ‘copy text’ was often a peculiar hybrid of various versions of the text in question, composed of parts from earlier manuscript or print versions of a text (to display the author’s early originality and vitality), along with elements from later printed or more ‘polished’ versions. Given that some sort of selection was inevitable, such editions did not provide the serious researcher with the full range of primary materials necessary to understand the text in question. As a result, although they evidently serve a useful purpose for teaching and basic study, for texts where there are substantial archival variations, printed editions can quickly become redundant for those working at the cutting edge of scholarly research.[27]

Although many of Newton’s papers on mathematics and physics have been published in printed editions, these have, in line with standard assumptions in classical editing, reproduced only parts or sections of the original documents.[28] In such publications the editor exercises a guiding hand throughout every aspect of the edition, assessing which textual elements are worth reproducing. For example, the editor of Newton’s mathematical writings, D.T. Whiteside, stated that the primary intention underlying his edition was “the publication of an accurate text of all Newton’s significant mathematical manuscripts”. He added that in assessing what was ‘important’, he had omitted some of Newton’s calculating sheets, and some of his annotations on the works of others, and admitted that “the degree of excitement aroused on initially encountering individual documents has possibly been a determining influence”. Whiteside gave a good description firstly of the difficulties involved in establishing the text, especially when the original documents were damaged, and secondly of the need to use editorial judgement to interpret and date passages, and even to restore missing textual elements. Whiteside made translations of the key Latin works into English, while the most valuable parts of the edition are probably the extensive footnotes in which he reformulated Newton’s work in a modern notation and referred to the secondary literature. This is recognised as an exemplary print edition in the field of Newton studies, and remains the first port of call for any serious student of Newton’s mathematical achievements.[29]

As Whiteside’s introduction demonstrates, technically demanding writings present particular editorial problems. Commentators have long voiced concerns that by ignoring heavily reworked notes, editions have often failed to capture the dynamic and most significant aspects of the creative process, and the omission of these sorts of notes has created serious problems for the utility of the canonical editions of the works of for example, Galileo and Christiaan Huygens. There are various reasons for excluding such writings, such as the impossibility of representing them in a comprehensible manner on the printed page. Another issue relates to their perceived relevance or importance. I.B. Cohen pointed out more than four decades ago in the ‘Introduction’ to his and Alexandre Koyré’s variorum edition of Newton’s Principia Mathematica, that shifting fashions in scholarship make it foolhardy for one editor to exclude allegedly ‘insignificant’ readings, leaving future generations to wonder what ‘significant’ variant readings had been omitted. In the case of their own edition, they had sought to include every textual variant between the three printed editions, along with variants in all of Newton’s interleaved versions of the work, so that scholars would never again need to have recourse to the originals.[30]

By itself, however, this approach remained deeply unsatisfying. In a cri de coeur concerning the tensions between the desire for completeness and the limits of print editing, Cohen remarked that he and Koyré had also wanted to include the most relevant selections from the hundreds of folios of Principia-related writings that are in the Portsmouth collection in Cambridge University Library. In the end, they felt unable to justify selecting any of these materials at all, firstly because they might not be able to articulate a coherent selection policy, and secondly, because even if they could, their criteria were likely to be rejected by other scholars. In general, any selection policy militated against the sort of comprehensiveness that would make the edition a long-lasting resource. In scholarly editions, Cohen argued, the editor’s interests and skills inevitably determined the choice of materials as well as the nature of commentary. A truly comprehensive edition would transcend the vagaries of editorial personalities and be future-proofed only if it were so complete that scholars would never again need to consult the originals. However, if they incorporated manuscript selections on say, electrical attraction or the nature of atoms,

the reader would at once ask himself what other manuscript material there might be on these and on similar topics which we had not selected for inclusion in the Apparatus Criticus of our edition. Such an effect is not necessarily bad, but it differs greatly from the aim of completeness we expected a critical edition to have. We were also mindful that foci of scholarly interest change from time to time, that our concerns would be different not only from those of some contemporaries but certainly from those that would be current perhaps as soon as a decade or so hence. We might very well omit just those topics that would be of primary scholarly concern to others, now and in the future, wholly apart from our disregard for grammatical constructions, or certain computations or collections of data.

Cohen concluded that if it were impossible to publish all the selections, then it might be better to publish none of them. As it happens, he and Koyré elected to publish a selection of the drafts in a companion volume, though this never appeared.[31]

Even if one restricted one’s selection of manuscripts to those associated with Newton’s Principia, the publication of all relevant documents was practically impossible to realise in a printed form. While the variants between the three editions of the Principia and Newton’s interleaved versions could be represented in their totality, Cohen and Koyré would still have had to make a choice about what selections from the manuscript materials they should include. The issue of selection could never be solved but would always be deferred or displaced to a related set of texts. Moreover, the costs of what Cohen termed an edition “of absolute completeness” would be prohibitive, and its size and complexity would render it unusable for anyone beyond a narrow band of specialists. More importantly, he admitted that the creation of such a work was “beyond our capacity as editors”, though he clearly wished that an appropriately ambitious edition could be realised in some form. Indeed, he described the procedures that would be necessary to produce such an edition, central to which was the transcription of every word in relevant parts of the Portsmouth Collection. These transcriptions would have to be “cut up so that each page, or paragraph, or line, or jotting could be classified according to the page and line of the Principia to which it pertains.” Such an undertaking might take a dozen scholars more than a dozen years to complete — a prospect that was hardly likely to be realised in any world Cohen could imagine.[32]

Cohen concluded that such an edition could never be as comprehensive and final as its editors wished it to be; nor could any large-scale edition, however ‘complete’ it sought to be, ever fully remove the need for editors to make decisions about what was relevant or significant. Even if such an edition were possible, he added, its vaunted completeness might be immediately countered either by the discovery of new Newton manuscripts, or by a later decision that they had been insufficiently impartial, had ignored historical writings by other scholars, or neglected relevant primary sources.[33]

For our purposes there are two corollaries to Cohen’s comments, both of which are pertinent for any attempt to make an edition of all of Newton’s writings. The first relates primarily to large-scale print editions, but more generally it applies to any edition of any scale. As Cohen rightly pointed out, any edition, no matter how complete, will always prompt readers to ask what it had not included. Perhaps paradoxically, the phenomenon is exacerbated in the digital sphere, despite the fact that much more material is available to the reader. The more content, contextual information and research facilities accorded to readers, the more is demanded of the resource. Readers now want access to colour images of the originals, sophisticated searching tools, and minutely detailed physical descriptions of each folio. These are all desirable but for datasets beyond a certain size, it is impossible for any editorial team to provide all this, along with commentaries and notes to each document, ‘text’ or ‘work’, and links to other digital objects both within and outside the site. The hope and promise that the digital can do everything is often a curse that makes readers quickly dissatisfied with what is already there.

This takes us to the second point, which concerns the claim that the editorial performance required to make the Principia-related texts tractable would be beyond his and Koyré’s capacity. Beyond a certain size, it is neither practical nor possible to ‘edit’ datasets in any traditional sense. Indeed, for all its great use as a scholarly resource, their variorum edition of the Principia provided little commentary or other contextual information. In the case of the Newton Project, there is simply too much source material for a single scholar or group of scholars to add the detailed sort of introductory or expository material that might be expected of an edition of one work or group of works. The textual base, amounting to approximately 9 million words, is an order of magnitude larger than that on which Whiteside worked, and a printed edition of all these writings would amount to about 35 printed volumes. This does not mean that no commentary material can be added, and as I point out in the main essay on editing above, the Newton Project contains more of this than any other similar digital research environment. It is not that editing is impossible, but that new forms and standards of editing need to be devised and implemented, in line with what experts and more general readers want from the dataset.[34]

[1] Since 2004 the task of producing an online edition of Newton’s alchemical papers has been ably performed by the University of Indiana’s Chymistry of Isaac Newton project, directed by Prof. William Newman. We would particularly like to thank Grant Young at CUDL for his work on the JISC ‘Windows on Genius’ project, and Prof. Stephen Snobelen at King’s College for making the encoded transcriptions produced by Newton Project Canada available to the Newton Project.

[2] About 90% of his pre-1700 scientific and mathematical correspondence is now online, and the remainder will be published throughout 2014. Many other notes and drafts, particularly those relating to the recasting of the Principia, have never been published but we intend to transcribe and release these over the next 4-5 years. Altogether, we estimate that about 1.4 million words from his writings in mechanics, physics and mathematics (now in the Portsmouth and Macclesfield papers at Cambridge University Library) remain to be transcribed.

[3] See R. Iliffe, “Digitizing Isaac: The Newton Project as an electronic edition of Newton’s papers,” in J.E. Force and S. Hutton, eds, Newton and Newtonianism: new studies, (Kluwer, 2004), 43-72.

[4] I make a pragmatic distinction between a ‘reader’ and a ‘researcher’. The former is likely to be interested in accessing the transcribed text in a more traditional or linear fashion, while the latter is interested in a number of different questions and in using the site in a very different and much more complex way.

[5] The term ‘document’ refers to the original material object on which transcriptions are based, while the ‘text’ refers to an edited interpretation of that document. The latter, in conventional editing terms, might well be an amalgam or composite made up of different drafts or editions. For general comments on digital editions see Iliffe, ‘Digitizing Isaac,’; P. Shillingsburg, From Gutenberg to Google, (Cambridge, 2006), esp. 2-18, 34-5, 81-97, 144-57 and 165-76; H. Gabler, “Theorizing the scholarly archive”, Literature Compass 7/2 (2010), 43-56; P. Fyfe, “Electronic errata: digital publishing, open review, and the futures of correction,” in M.K. Gold ed., Debates in the Digital humanities, (St. Paul, 2012), and P. Robinson, “Towards a theory of digital editions,” Variants 10 (2013), 106-27.

[6] These features of the conventional print can be summarised as (a) the linear order and physicality of the book; (b) the presence of a named editor who has vouched for the accuracy of the textual rendition and who has added various forms of ‘apparatus’; and (c) the presence of a ‘publisher’. One might add the facts that (d) such books have ISBN numbers (or equivalents) and thus have a unique ISO identity, and (e) they are citable resources with either the name of the author or of the editor coming first. Finally, whether one likes it or not, (f), the fact that such works cost money also confers additional value on the product.

[7] From the point of view of the archivist or curator, there is no further damage to the physical documents.

[8] For the notion of the ‘work’, which arises from a particular combination of texts, see P. Eggerts, Securing the Past.: Conservation in Art, Architecture and Literature (Cambridge, 2009) and Robinson, ‘digital editions’, 110-20.

[9] Roughly 40% of the transcribed material is in Latin (with a small amount in Greek), and although the distinction between notes and original writings is often blurred, about 25% of the total number of transcribed words are excerpts from sources. Two major documents, New College Oxford Ms. 361.2 and Newton’s ‘History of the Church’ owned by the Martin Bodmer Library in Geneva remain unpublished as of December 2013. These documents amount to approximately 240,000 words and 420,000 words respectively, and the validating and proofing of these highly complex and in places heavily re-written texts will consume most of the Project’s work in 2014.

[10] Only tiny snippets of his religious writings were published before the first writings appeared on the Newton Project site in 2000, through an expensive microfilm of almost all of Newton’s papers had been released by Chadwyck-Healey in 1991.

[11] For Newton’s work on chronology, see F. Manuel, Isaac Newton, Historian, (Cambridge, 1963), and J. Buchwald and M. Feingold, Newton and the Origins of Civilization, (Princeton, 2013).

[12] Newton’s Fitzwilliam notebook (fols 6r-v) indicates that he bought equipment for lens-grinding after he returned to Cambridge from Lincolnshire in 1667. Four pages from the essay ‘Of Refractions’ were removed from the mathematical notebook; see Whiteside, ‘Mathematical papers’, 1: 572-6.

[13] Shapiro describes the difference between the ‘Lectiones opticae’ and the ‘Optica’ in his introduction to ‘Optical papers’, 1: 16-17. The ‘Optica’ is almost half as large again as the ‘Lectiones’, while about 85% of the latter found its way into the ‘Optica’. This, now CUL Dd.9.67, was deposited in the university library (as per the demands of the Lucasian professorship) as an example of Newton’s Lucasian lectures in October 1674. Deposited lectures were available for inspection by interested parties and a number of copies were made of this text, as also of another version that Newton gave David Gregory in 1701. A translation of part 1 of the ‘Optica’ was published in the summer of 1727, very shortly after Newton’s death, and an edition of the whole Latin text appeared 2 years later. See Shapiro, ‘Optical papers’, 21-2 fn. 69.

[14] John Conduitt re-used de Moivre’s memorandum in a draft of his ‘Life’ of Newton. For a fuller account of Newton’s early reading see Whiteside, ‘Mathematical Papers,’ 1: 19-24.

[15] Whiteside, ‘Mathematical papers’, 1: 213-33, 248-65, 272-96 and 298-367, and Westfall, ‘Never at rest’, 110-12 and 128-32. More broadly, see N. Guicciardini, Isaac Newton on Mathematical Certainty and Method, (Cambridge, Mass., 2009)

[16] See Whiteside, ‘Mathematical papers’, 1: 91-121, esp. 104-111, and 122-42.

[17] The term ‘fluxion’, which Newton later used to describe his general approach to what we call calculus, does not occur in the October tract. He left Trinity because of the plague in early 1666, and returned to Cambridge in March of the following year. He only stayed for about three months before the situation became precarious once more, and he returned to Lincolnshire until April 1667. If the October 1666 date is correct, he wrote the piece at Woolsthorpe or at the Boothby Pagnell residence (the rectory) of his friend and Trinity colleague, Humphrey Babington. Newton may have added the ‘October 1666’ date much later, in connection with the priority dispute with Leibniz, but in any case it is very likely that he was not in Cambridge when he wrote the piece.

[18] It was published in print only in 1711, just as Newton’s efforts to mobilise support for his priority in the invention of the calculus gained momentum.

[19] See R.S. Westfall, Never at Rest. A Biography of Isaac Newton, (Cambridge, 1980), 224-5 and Whiteside, ‘Mathematical papers’, 2: 277-94 and 364-447.

[20] The treatise, known as ‘De methodis serierum et fluxionum’ is reproduced in Whiteside ed., ‘Mathematical papers’, 32-328.

[21] According to the De Moivre memorandum, Halley asked Newton what orbit was implied by the inverse-square law whereupon Newton replied that it was an ellipse, but the question and answer must have been posed conversely.

[22] Westfall, ‘Never at rest’, 408-26 esp. 420.

[23] Newton deposited copies of sections of the liber secundus as his Lucasian lectures for 1687; these are now designated as CUL Dd.4.18.

[24] The copy of the ‘epistola posterior’ to which there is a link in this paragraph is a copy of the original Newton autograph, now in the British Library.

[25] For projects run in whole or part since January 2008 the following members of the Newton Project have been funded directly by Research Council awards: Rob Iliffe, Scott Mandelbrote, John Young, Mike Hawkins, Daniele Cassisa, Margarita Fernandez-Chas, J. Yvonne Martin-Portugues Santacreu, Cesare Pastorino, Peter Langman, Michael Silverthorne, Snezana Lawrence and Abdul Sami. Transcribers funded by private donations were Kees-Jan Schilt, Daniele Cassisa, Micah Anshan, Jeremy Schildt, Elizabeth Kingston, Amanda McKeever, Chris Hussey, Andy Mansfield, Mark Howell, Raquel Delgado-Moreira and Kenneth Moore.

[26] Before the Newton Project produced its own catalogue, the most comprehensive effort to list all the holdings of the non-scientific papers was [J.C. Taylor], Catalogue of the Newton Papers sold by order of the Viscount Lymington, (London, 1936).

[27] The later versions or editions of a work can be seen as a more collaborative venture, since these later works may well be composed in response to criticism. Alternatively, their more polished or complete status may compel the commentator to point to the weight of the various interpretive acts that have been performed by the author on previous versions of the text as evidence of different facets of the author’s individuality.

[28] The Newton correspondence aimed at comprehensiveness and was highly successful in identifying and printing letters sent to and by Newton in both private and public repositories. It was conceived in the late 1930s, and volume 1 of the 7-volume edition appeared in 1959. The last volume, dealing with Newton’s correspondence between 1718 and 1727, was published in 1977. The first volume of Newton’s mathematical papers appeared in 1967, and the eighth and last in 1981; see H.W. Turnbull, A. Rupert Hall and L. Tilling, eds, The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, (Cambridge, 1959-77); D.T. Whiteside, ed., The Mathematical papers of Isaac Newton, 8 vols (Cambridge, 1967-81). The first volume of Newton’s optical papers was published in 1984; see A. Shapiro, ed., The Optical Papers of Isaac Newton, vol. 1 (Cambridge, 1984).

[29] Whiteside, ‘Mathematical Papers’, 1: x-xiv, esp. x-xi fns 1 and 5.

[30] I.B. Cohen, Introduction to Newton’s ‘Principia’, (Cambridge, 1971), ix-xi and 29-34, esp. 31-3.

[31] Cohen, ‘Introduction’, 33. For observations on the potential of the digital medium as an ideal platform for an edition of Newton’s papers, see R. Iliffe, “Digitizing Isaac: The Newton Project as an electronic edition of Newton’s papers,” in J.E. Force and S. Hutton, eds, Newton and Newtonianism: new studies, (Kluwer, 2004), 43-72.

[32] Cohen, ‘Introduction’, 31. A team of a similar magnitude to that desired by Cohen, has however, long worked on a printed edition of the Leibniz archive, and one half that size works on a print edition of the correspondence of Charles Darwin. Both of these editions now have a substantial presence on the web

[33] Cohen, ‘Introduction’, 32.

[34] Measured by words alone, and certainly by intellectual effort, the extent of Newton’s religious output is much greater than the total of all the rest of his work. The figure of 35 volumes is reached by taking into account both the number of volumes that make up existing editions of Newton’s work in the exact sciences, and the different nature of his alchemical, religious and administrative writings. Based on the existing print editions of his correspondence and mathematical papers, one may assume that a combination of his correspondence, and his mathematical and scientific papers would amount to about 24 volumes. The religious writings would require about 8 volumes and the alchemical writings perhaps 1, with 2 for the administrative papers (assuming that many of Mint ‘papers’ are reproduced in the correspondence).

© 2024 The Newton Project

Professor Rob Iliffe
Director, AHRC Newton Papers Project

Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

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