King's College, Cambridge, Keynes Ms. 62, f. 4r
Newton began reading alchemical books in the late 1660s. In 1669, he recorded that he had spent £1. 8s. on the Theatrum chemicum (1659-61), a six volume compendium of chemical works edited by Lazarus Zetzner (see catalogue number 3). At about this time, he also acquired a small volume containing copies of a number of miscellaneous alchemical texts in manuscript. Many of these texts had appeared in print. Some could be found in the Theatrum chemicum; several were included in Elias Ashmole's Theatrum chemicum Britannicum (1652); others had been published separately or in other collections.
Newton often kept extracts from printed books in small notebooks made by folding a sheet of paper into four. He treated his collection of alchemical manuscripts in a similar way, making extracts of particular works in the sheet of notes on display. In addition to copying the text of 'The breif of Sr Edward Vere his book', Newton also made drawings of the vessels and furnace recommended by the author for the distillation of mercury.
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