Newton Papers : Newton's Waste Book

'Isaac Newton'

Newton Papers

The Mathematical Wastebook


Much of Newton's important work on calculus is developed in this large notebook, which he began using in 1664 when he was away from Cambridge due to the plague. Newton inherited the book from his stepfather, Rev Barnabas Smith, who used it from about 1612 to record his own theological notes (see, for example, his notes on adultery, in Latin). Newton was not interested in his stepfather’s jottings: its value to him was the large number of blank pages, which he began filling with his mathematical and optical calculations. Although the bulk of his work in this manuscript dates from the mid-1660s, Newton continued to use into the 1680s and possibly even the 1690s.

The Waste Book is now in two parts and has a complex foliation (numbering).The original covers are detached, with the first part of the manuscript now bound in red leather and the second part without a binding. Our presentation of the manuscript starts with its original front cover and then shows the bound volume. The second part of the Waste Book begins with folio 192r. At the end of our presentation of the manuscript are some page and cover fragments, the original back cover, and a sheet of paper describing the foliation.

The manuscript was photographed in 2011. A transcription is being prepared and should be available soon.


Video describing folio 50v

University of Cambridge Cambridge Digital Library