NEWTON, ISAAC. 1642-1727. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone, titled on the upper wrapper "Opus Galli Anonymi,"
Lot 6
NEWTON, ISAAC. 1642-1727.
Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone, titled on the upper wrapper "Opus Galli Anonymi,"
Sold for US$ 275,000 inc. premium

Lot Details
NEWTON, ISAAC. 1642-1727. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone, titled on the upper wrapper "Opus Galli Anonymi," NEWTON, ISAAC. 1642-1727. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone, titled on the upper wrapper "Opus Galli Anonymi," NEWTON, ISAAC. 1642-1727. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone, titled on the upper wrapper "Opus Galli Anonymi," NEWTON, ISAAC. 1642-1727. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone, titled on the upper wrapper "Opus Galli Anonymi," NEWTON, ISAAC. 1642-1727. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone, titled on the upper wrapper "Opus Galli Anonymi,"
NEWTON, ISAAC. 1642-1727.
Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone, titled on the upper wrapper "Opus Galli Anonymi," 8 pp recto and verso, on two bifolia (watermarked arms of London), with wrappers made up from the same stock, 4to (284 x 182 mm), [1690s], closely written in ink with numerous deletions and supralinear emendations, approximately 45 lines per page totaling roughly 4000 words, wrapper lightly browned, and separating at fold.
Provenance: Isaac Newton; Catherine Barton (1679–1739); by descent, sold Sotheby's, July 1936, lot 67, as part of the Portsmouth Papers, to bookseller Emmanuel Fabius.

UNPUBLISHED ISAAC NEWTON MANUSCRIPT DETAILING THE CREATION OF THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE – THE LARGEST AND MOST SUBSTANTIAL SCIENTIFIC MANUSCRIPT BY NEWTON IN PRIVATE HANDS. John Maynard Keynes, the influential economist and the greatest collector of Newton manuscripts, famously referred to Newton as "the last of the magicians" for his pursuit of alchemy. However, as modern Newton scholarship brings to light, Newton's alchemical investigations were not in pursuit of chrysopoeia, or gold-making, but rather were part of his quest to discover the principles of chemistry. Along with Newton, many of the scientific and philosophical luminaries of the period engaged in the study of alchemy, including Boyle, Locke, and Leibniz, among others. As with all of his pursuits, Newton brought a scientific approach and rigorously logical mind to the investigation, actively engaging in laboratory experimentation to empirically verify the efficacy of the regimens he read and wrote about. Newton ultimately devoted more time and ink to chemistry than he did to physics and mathematics combined, amassing one of the largest libraries ever assembled on the subject, including several hundred manuscripts he himself wrote (both by way of transcription and elucidation). Newton was always highly guarded about his chemical researches during his lifetime, and most of his manuscripts and private papers were kept from public view for over two hundred years after his death, making the academic study of Newton's chemistry a relatively recent and ripe field.

Newton's interest in chemistry was profoundly related to, and entirely in accord with, his more well-known work with gravity and light. Indeed, Newton's chemical researches appear to have significantly contributed to his successful achievement in each of these other scientific areas. The Principia left the "active cause of gravity" unposited, and Newton was convinced that chemistry held the key to its determination (Opticks, Query 31).In addition to providing him a theory of matter's structure, Newton's chemical researches furnished him a theory of "active principles" and "affinity" which most scholars agree influenced and shaped his concept of gravity in the Principia. Perhaps the clearest expression of this chemistry-gravity connection is to be found in Newton's 1692 essay "De natura acidorum," where we observe "the transition from the alchemical concept of active principle to the Newtonian concept of attraction expressed in his own words" (Westfall, "Newton and Alchemy," 1984). Newton's chemical investigations also impacted his theory of light and optics: Robert Boyle's "alchemical experiments" regarding the dissolution and reconstitution of camphor appears to have suggested to him the very possibility of separating and reconstituting white light via a prism.

This outstanding manuscript declares that it reveals "The Secret of Secrets," and the directions are remarkable for the clarity of instruction. Almost entirely free of the usual concealments and code words (Decknamen) characteristic of alchemy texts, the regimen detailed for the production of the Philosopher's Stone could in theory be unambiguously recreated within a modern laboratory. Divided into 7 sections, the manuscript describes a lengthy and precise process of distillations, additions, heatings and coolings. An untitled introduction briefly overviews the four elements and the alchemical process, signaling that the matter used for the preparation of the Stone is "matter on which nature has operated very little," and the subsequent short titled section on "De materia" further specifies that the base matter of the given regimen is lead and tin of a special given characteristic. The manuscript then proceeds to meticulously describe a long and detailed regimen over the course of four titled sections of the text (including one on the "making of [medicinal] potable gold"), before finally concluding with "another shorter way of making our stone and medicine." Labor intensive, even the shorter regimen is said to take from 9 to 12 months, depending on the purity of the original matter used, the adherence to practical detail, and the quality of the fire.

This manuscript was written in the decade following the publication of the Principia, an especially fertile time for Newton's chemistry (during which Newton wrote his seminal chemical treatise "De natura acidorum"). Though Newton's inscription on the front wrapper tell us that the text is an "anonymous French work" ("Opus Galli Anonymi") and further notes that the regimen described is similar to one by the French alchemical physician Pierre-Jean Fabre, no comparable source text is known, indicating this is possibly the only extant copy of the text in any language. The heavy emendation and the nature of the corrections, together with the characteristic English phrasing of the Latin, suggest that Newton was not simply transcribing, but was extemporaneously creating an original translation from the French text, possibly interpreting and elucidating in the process.

An unpublished and otherwise unknown text, this manuscript merits formal academic study, and an examination of Newton's particular contributions to the text will doubtless enrich our understanding of his relationship to the alchemical tradition as well as his own chemical legacy. Moreover, documenting an unrecorded extensive regimen in clear language, often evocative of Newton's own chemical writings, this manuscript adds substantively to our understanding of both alchemy and chemistry in the 17th century. As nearly all of the Newton manuscripts offered in the 1936 Portsmouth Papers sale have already made their way into institutions, a Newton manuscript of this scale and import is unlikely to appear again in the foreseeable future.
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