• <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>English Literature, History, Science,<br>Children’s Books and Illustrations<br>1 – 8 December, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> JAMES OF MILAN | <i>Pricking of love,</i> illuminated manuscript in Middle English [England, fifteenth century]. £60,000 to £80,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> BEARDSLEY | <i>The Toilet of Helen,</i> original ink drawing for Savoy, 1895. £30,000 to £50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> DICKENS | <i>A Christmas Carol,</i> 1844, seventh edition, presentation copy inscribed by the author. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>English Literature, History, Science,<br>Children’s Books and Illustrations<br>1 – 8 December, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> DARWIN | <i>For Private Distribution... Extracts from Letters addressed to Professor Henslow...,</i> 1835, original wrappers. £70,000 to £90,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> DEFOE | Autograph manuscript poem, 'Resignation', 1708. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> GRAHAME | <i>The Wind in the Willows,</i> 1908, first edition, dust-jacket. £12,000 to £16,000.
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Livres et Manuscrits<br>7 – 15 December, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> [RELIURE BRODÉE]. <i>Horae beatissimae...</i> Anvers, 1570. Reliure brodée de la Renaissance aux armes du duc d'Anjou. €50,000 to €70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> ARTOIS, comte d', futur Charles X. 75 lettres autographes au comte de Vaudreuil entre 1792 et 1804. €15,000 to €20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> [Pascal, Blaise]. <i>Lettres de A. Dettonville ...</i> Paris, 1658-1659. Rarissime édition originale en reliure de l'époque. €30,000 to €50,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Livres et Manuscrits<br>7 – 15 December, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> Aragon, Louis. Ens. de 8 ouvrages avec envois à Jacques Lacan, dont "Blanche et l'oubli", 1967, sur grand papier. €2,000 to €3,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> Fermat, Pierre de. <i>Varia opera mathematica.</i> Toulouse,1679. Petit in-folio. Edition originale. De la bibliothèque de Jacques Lacan. €6,000 to €8,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> Leduc, Violette. <i>La Bâtarde.</i> 1958-1963. Important manuscrit autographe, premier jet. 20 cahiers, env 2048 p. ms. €40,000 to €60,000.
  • <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>December Sale<br>December 5, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> SHERBURNE, BRANTZ, and WIRGMAN. The Original Drawings of the First Modern Scientific Survey of the Patapsco River and Chesapeake Bay. $350,000 to $500,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> LAFON, Barthelemy. The Earliest Comprehensive Survey of Louisiana and its Adjacent Regions. $350,000 to $450,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> Giacomo GASTALDI. The Most Important Renaissance Wall Map of Asia Published in the 16th Century – with all four sheets having full margins. $300,000 to $400,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>December Sale<br>December 5, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> CAO, Junyi. The Most Important Map of China to Come to Market in 50 Years. One of only three known copies of the last Ming Dynasty world map. $325,000 to $375,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> ORTELIUS, Abraham. Ortelius Atlas Spanish 1588 Magnificently Rich Original Hand Color in Full. $225,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> An Exceptionally Fine and Historically Important Manuscript Map Showing the Origins of Texas in the 19th Century. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>December Sale<br>December 5, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> PRICE, William and BONNER, John. Map of Boston 1769. $225,000 to $325,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> John James AUDUBON. Audubon’s Brilliant Icon, That Has Never Been Equaled for Drama. $150,000 to $250,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> Pierre-Joseph REDOUTE. Original Watercolor, Red Lily. $175,000 to $250,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>December Sale<br>December 5, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> John James AUDUBON. The Most Famous Image of a Bird in All of History. $150,000 to $200,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> Martin WALDSEEMULLER. The Finest Example in Existence of Martin Waldseemuller’s Map of the New World, with Spectacular Full Original Color. $150,000 to $200,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> GORDON, Peter. The First State of the First View of Savannah: The Template for American Urban Planning. $100,000 to $150,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2018 Issue

Sir Isaac Newton and the Philosopher's Stone

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Manuscript handwritten by Isaac Newton.

The University of Illinois reported that it had recently obtained an important late 17th century document for its Rare Book and Manuscript Library. It did not come cheaply. They paid $275,000 for it at an auction at Bonham's. It was funded by a gift of $500,000 from university graduates Jim and Lionelle Elsesser. It will not be put on display, other than at an unveiling ceremony later this summer, but will be made physically available to scholars and digitized for the rest of the world to see.

 

The document is a handwritten manuscript, eight pages in length, headed Opus Galli Anonymi. That's Latin for "Anonymous Work of the Gauls." It presents detailed instructions for creating the philosopher's stone, the miraculous substance that can turn lead to gold. Of course, it doesn't. If it actually told us how to prepare it, this would be worth a lot more than $275,000. For centuries, people sought this wondrous substance that would make them rich. It does not exist, though perhaps someday we will figure out how to split apart lead atoms and turn them to gold.

 

You may think this document was prepared by some 17th century alchemist, a pseudo-scientist kook fruitlessly seeking riches. It was not. It was created by one of the greatest scientific minds that ever lived. This manuscript was handwritten by that great scientist, Sir Isaac Newton. As the heading suggests, it was not Newton's original work. He copied it from some French writer, quite possibly translated it as well. We don't know who the author was as no record of it has shown up anywhere else. It must not have been published. However, this does not mean that Newton contributed nothing more than a scribe. It has numerous deletions and replacements. Either he added something to it, or was such a poor scribe or translator that he had to constantly correct his work.

 

That still leaves us with the question, what was a legitimate scientist like Newton doing playing around with alchemy? Einstein didn't do that. I guess Newton was no Einstein? Well, actually he was, just in another time. We didn't have a completely separate field for science back then, let alone each separate type of science. There weren't chemists, physicists, astronomers, geologists, alchemists, theologians, and philosophers. They were all philosophers, sometimes with separate specialties, but all philosophers. That's why it was the philosopher's stone, not the alchemist's stone. Newton wrote about physics and chemistry and theology because he was a philosopher. They were all aspects of the same universe to him.

 

Newton dabbled in alchemy, not so much to get rich, as to make discoveries. He thought gravity might be related to some chemical reaction, and what is today chemistry and alchemy were particularly closely related. Besides which, it was thought the philosopher's stone could do other amazing things, such as granting the possessor immortality.

 

Newton was also deeply religious, at least by today's standards, though some of his views were sufficiently unorthodox in his day he feared for his life if he revealed them. Nevertheless, God figures prominently in the operation of his universe, making the various heavenly bodies move in a predictable manner. Gravity doesn't just happen without a thinking mind behind it. Scientists today would not speak of it this way, but in the age when all fields were combined into philosophy, one could readily move from one to another. Newton was a child of his time, a brilliant one, but still bound by his connection to the 17th century. One can only wonder what he would have come up with had he lived today.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>9 & 10 December 2020</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Joyce (James), <i>Ulysses,</i> 4to, Paris: (Shakespeare & Co.) 1922, First Edn. €7,000 to €9,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Of the Utmost Rarity with Swift Association. Harward (Michael). <i>Philomath. A New Almanack for the Year of Our Lord,</i> 1666. €6,000 to €9,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> With Full Complement of Hand Coloured & Other Plates. Rosellini (Ippolito). <i>Monumenti dell Egitto e della Nubia,</i> Vols. I, II, & III Plate Volumes only. €5,000 to €7,000.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>9 & 10 December 2020</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> With Magnificent Hand Coloured Plates. [Bivort, Debabay, & others] <i>Annales de Pomologie,</i> 8 vols., folio, Brussels, 1853-1861. €4,000 to €6,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> With Very Fine Coloured Plates & Illustrations. Barbier (George) Vogel (Lucien) & others, <i>Gazette du Bon Ton - Arts-modes et frivolities, </i> 1914 to 1922. €4,000 to €6,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> “I have seen War... I hate War," Signed Presentation Copy to William C. Bullitt, Roosevelt (Franklin D.) August 14, 1936. €3,000 to €4,000.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>9 & 10 December 2020</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Victorian Hostess & Horticulturist. An Important Collection Relating to Lady Dorothy Nevill (1826-1913). €2,500 to €3,200.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Fine Original Portrait Photos of The O'Brien Ladies by Margaret Cameron. Two black and white Photos, each 8" x 10". €1,200 to €1,800.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> James Hume Nesbitt Illustrations: A collection of twelve pen and ink Drawings and Etchings intended for publication as book of illustrations for his thriller novels. €800 to €1,200.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>9 & 10 December 2020</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Attributed to Kitagawa Utamavo (1753-1806). A pair of attractive colourful woodblock prints, of Court Ladies in decorative robes with numerous stamps and script. €800 to €1,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Contemporaneous Notes from Captain Cook's Voyage Travel: [Anon] <i>Voyage to the South Sea by Mr. Banks, Mr. Parkinson and Dr. Solender, with Capt. Cooke,</i> a 7 page m/ss document. €700 to €1,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Very Rare First U.K. Edition with Yellow Paper Band. Herbert (Frank). <i>Dune,</i> 8vo London (Victor Gollancz Ltd.) 1966. €500 to €700.
  • <center><b>One of a Kind Collectibles Auctions<br>Rare Autographs,<br>Manuscripts and Books<br>Accepting bids<br>Now until December 17</b>
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> Thomas Jefferson (wants to bring his private French chef to Monticello.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> Amazing Marilyn Monroe Signed 1953 Glamour Photo.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> Albert Einstein "refugee intellectuals of the Hitler persecution."
    <center><b>One of a Kind Collectibles Auctions<br>Rare Autographs,<br>Manuscripts and Books<br>Accepting bids<br>Now until December 17</b>
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> Man Ray Photographs (1935) signed to Sister.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> John Hancock Signed Document.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> <i>Liber Scriptorum;</i> Signed Stories by Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt and Carnegie as well as 106 other authors! Limited to 251 Copies.
    <center><b>One of a Kind Collectibles Auctions<br>Rare Autographs,<br>Manuscripts and Books<br>Accepting bids<br>Now until December 17</b>
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> Historically Important Winfield Scott letter.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> Buddy Holly signed "AMERICA'S GREATEST TEEN-AGE RECORDING STARS" PROGRAM.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> Benedict Arnold autograph receipt signed in the text.
    <center><b>One of a Kind Collectibles Auctions<br>Rare Autographs,<br>Manuscripts and Books<br>Accepting bids<br>Now until December 17</b>
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> (Michael Curtiz) Amazing archives of 22 letters Written by John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Ingrid Bergman. Olivia De Havilland, Bing Crosby.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> GIUSEPPE VERDI SIGNED PHOTO.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> Very Rare Jonathan Swift Autograph (Gulliver's Travels).
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Bernardus Sylvanus, one of the earliest printed maps of the New World, woodcut, Venice, 1511. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Johannes Blaeu, <i>Nova et Accuratissima Totius Terrarum Orbis Tabula,</i> Amsterdam, 1662. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Emanuel Bowen & John Gibson, <i>Atlas Minimus,</i> miniature atlas, London, 1758. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Henry Andrews, <i>The Botanist's Repository for New & Rare Plants,</i> London, 1797-1815. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> John James Audubon, <i>Night Heron or Qua Bird, Plate CCXXXVI,</i> hand-colored aquatint, 1835. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Basilius Besler, group of 30 folio engravings, <i>Hortus Eystettensis,</i> Eichstatt, 1613. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Henri Chatelain, <i>Carte Tres Curieuse de la Mer du Sud...,</i> Amsterdam, 1719. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Arnoldus Montanus, <i>Die Unbekante Neue Welt...,</i> German text edition, Amsterdam, 1673. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> John Woodhouse Audubon, <i>California Gray Squirrel,</i> oil on canvas, c. 1853. $30,000 to $50,000.
  • <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> BULLER, Walter Lawry. <i>A HISTORY OF THE BIRDS OF NEW ZEALAND.</i> London, Van Voorst, 1873. Special De-Luxe edition of this already rare work.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> GIBBS, May. <i>Gum-Nut Babies.</i> Sydney: Angus and Robertson, Ca. 1918.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> SWIFT, Jonathan. <i>TRAVELS INTO SEVERAL REMOTE NATIONS OF THE WORLD.</i> London: Printed for Benj.Motte. 1727.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> JUKES, Joseph Beete. <i>NARRATIVE OF THE SURVEYING VOYAGE OF H.M.S. FLY…</i> London: T. & W. Boone, 1847. First Edition.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> <i>SOMERVILLE, E OE. IN THE VINE COUNTRY.</i> London: W H Allen & Co Limited, 1893.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> MAWE, John. <i>The voyager’s companion, or shell collector’s pilot.</i> London : 1825. Rare.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> PARKINSON, John. <i>Theatrum Botanicum, The Theater of Plants…</i> London, Thomas Cotes, 1640.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> c. 1150 decorated MONASTIC MISSAL LEAF, Southern Germany/Austria.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> LEGGE, Captain W. Vincent. <i>A HISTORY OF THE BIRDS OF CEYLON.</i> London, The Author, 1880.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> AUNT HANNAH. <i>SOME ADVENTURES IN THE LIFE OF A COCKATOO.</i> Published in New York by R. Shugg and Co., 1872.

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