Isaac Newton’s manuscript acquired by University library
May 2, 2018
The University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library has gotten Sir Isaac Newton’s manuscript on how to make the philosopher’s stone, a substance that can turn lead into gold, cure illness and grant its user immortality.
The four-sheet manuscript was acquired with $275,000, using part of a $500,000 gift fund from University alumni Jim and Lionelle Elsesser.
Lynne Thomas, head of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, said in an email that access to the manuscript will be restricted until it is appropriately conserved and documented.
“The manuscript will be cataloged, digitized and conserved over the next few months,” Thomas said. “We hope to find someone interested in translating it from Latin into English, too. Once we have completed that process, the manuscript will be incorporated into our secure collections area.”
The manuscript will be returned to the public domain for the first time since 1936, Thomas said.
The Rare Book and Manuscript Library, located on the third floor of the Main Library, is the largest publicly available rare book collection in the country, Thomas said. The manuscript will be added to the library’s specialization area, the history of science.
Thomas said the manuscript will contribute to anyone who is interested in the history of the sciences and provide opportunities for students to do some translation work.
“It documents an important aspect of the history of science — how alchemical studies often happened side-by-side with chemical, physical and mathematical studies in the 17th century,” Thomas said.