The scientific library of the earls of Macclesfield

Paul Quarrie


The dispersal at auction of the renowned scientific library of the earls of Macclesfield from Shirburn Castle has been held at Sotheby's, London, in the period March 2004 to November 2005 in six sales following upon the sale to the Cambridge University Library of the Macclesfield scientific papers. This paper discusses aspects of the history of the library, its genesis and composition, the personal history of those who created it, and certain individual volumes.


At the end of October 2005 the sales at auction of the scientific portion of the library of the earls of Macclesfield were completed, and encompassed some 2290 lots. Of these only one item can be classed as manifestly non-scientific (although even here there are some wonderfully lifelike drawings of animals), the celebrated Macclesfield Psalter (sold on 22 June 2004, lot 587), acquired eventually by the Fitzwilliam Museum, and the centrepiece of the exhibition ‘The Cambridge Illuminations’ at the museum from June to December 2005.1

It is the purpose of this paper to give some account of the genesis of this marvellously rich collection, and of the history of those who created it, as also of individual books. Clearly with such a vast collection, one must needs be selective, but it is my hope that something of the importance and excitement of this library may be gained from the account and that the connections of the library with the wider cultural world of the period may be illuminated.

The dispersal of this remarkable library, of which the scientific books form but a part, and which has remained virtually intact since it was formed in the first half of the eighteenth century, has been brought about as a result of family problems, partly caused by a less than perfect settlement of the estate made by the seventh Earl. But before we discuss the present dispersal, we should mention something of great national importance, and one not without bearing on the history of the Royal Society, which had occurred slightly earlier.

The Macclesfield Newton papers

The present and ninth Earl of Macclesfield had received the library (and many other things) as a gift from his grandfather almost 40 years ago. He and his wife had become aware in about 1996 that the famous, if rarely seen, archive of scientific papers of Sir Isaac Newton and others was not best housed or cared for in Shirburn Castle, their then home—it was actually in a cupboard in the library, with a mass of other papers. After discussion with the writer of this account, who had been working at various times in the library for some two years and who prepared a calendar of the papers, it was decided that the archive should be offered to Cambridge University Library. In the summer of 2000 the library, with a massive grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund, and monies from other sources both at home and abroad, was able to acquire these by private sale at a fair but far from unreasonable sum.

These scientific papers of the Earl of Macclesfield were the most important of their kind in private hands; they consist of autograph letters and other papers of Sir Isaac Newton, letters and papers of other mathematicians and scientists, including John Collins, William Jones and others such as a number of important earlier mathematicians of the seventeenth century, among them William Oughtred, John Wallis and Isaac Barrow. The earlier items all come from John Collins. There are also copies and transcripts of works by Newton, which serve to show the immediacy with which Newton's ideas were circulated and discussed, and these mostly stem from William Jones.

The collection was famous by repute but largely unstudied, although access to the Newton papers had been allowed and use had been made of them; its purchase by the University Library Cambridge, with the help of a substantial grant from the Lottery Fund made it a magnificent adjunct to the existing Newton collections in Cambridge. These papers together with many others from the riches of Newton holdings in Cambridge were, in part, shown in an exhibition at the University Library in a space itself created recently in 1998 with a grant from the Lottery Fund. It was entitled ‘Footprints of the Lion’, and had a catalogue compiled by Newton scholar Scott Mandelbrote of Peterhouse. As Peter Fox, the University Librarian, wrote in the foreword to the catalogue, ‘even before the acquisition of the Macclesfield Collection, Cambridge University held by far the most important group of Newton's scientific papers chiefly in the Portsmouth Collection [acquired] … in 1872’, with which the Macclesfield Collection is closely related. Further, the library has the manuscripts of Newton's Lucasian lectures and many details of his university career, and elsewhere in Cambridge one must add those papers in the libraries of Trinity College, King's College and the Fitzwilliam Museum.

The archive of letters and papers that the University Library at Cambridge acquired stems from the strong personal interests of the first and second earls. Indeed, the first Earl of Macclesfield was one of the pall-bearers at Newton's funeral together with the Lord High Chancellor, the Dukes of Montrose and Roxburghe, and two fellow earls, the Earl of Pembroke and the Earl of Sussex, but there are two men whose activities and position vis-à-vis Newton, The Royal Society and the Macclesfield family are behind the original amassing of the papers: the first and second earls.

The first Earl of Macclesfield

Thomas Parker (FRS 1713), the first Earl of Macclesfield, was a great lawyer and a man closely interested in the intellectual problems of his time—religious, legal and scientific—and a great book collector. He was born on 23 July 1667 in Leek, Staffordshire, where he later founded a grammar school. His father, also called Thomas, was an attorney at Leek and Newcastle-under-Lyme; his mother was Anne, daughter of Robert Venables of Nuneham, Cheshire. Anne had eloped with Thomas Parker senior, which led to the loss of her dowry. Parker senior's legal practice seems not to have flourished, and money was scarce to the extent that in 1684, Thomas junior being clearly a young man of parts, his father asked Robert Venables for money to send the boy to university, stating that he had been ‘importuned by some persons of quality and others who are able to judge of a lad's capacity for learning to send my son to the university’. This was refused and the father wrote that ‘my son's teeth are set on edge with the sour grapes which his parents have eaten….’ This early treatment may explain Parker's avarice and concern with money later in life.

Parker was educated at the grammar school in Newport, Shropshire (a couple of his books from his time at that school are still in the present Earl's possession), then at the free school in Derby (1680), and subsequently at a private school there run by the Rev. Samuel Ogden. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1685, but took no degree. He had previously been admitted into the Middle Temple in 1684, and was called to the bar in 1694. He was created a bencher of the Middle Temple in 1705, the same year in which he was made a QC and serjeant-at-law. At first working on the Midland circuit, where his obvious skills led to his being nominated recorder of Derby in 1696, he became a highly successful lawyer, rich and powerful, and involved in local politics as a staunch Whig.

His move to London made his legal career prosper, and he appeared frequently as counsel before the House of Lords. His Whig partisanship and forensic skills led to his involvement in a celebrated libel case in 1704, in which he defended the printer John Tutchin for libellous remarks against Queen Anne's ministers. His reputation grew further and in 1705 Parker entered the House of Commons as the Whig MP for Derby, and was knighted by Queen Anne. He remained in the House until 1710, active in much parliamentary business as well as at the bar; in the session 1709–10, as one of the leading parliamentary lawyers, he was closely involved in the Sacheverell case, in which Sacheverell was impeached for attempting in his sermons and writings to overturn the ecclesiastical and civil polity of the country, and Parker made several celebrated speeches.

In 1710, more or less at the expiry of this case, Parker became Lord Chief Justice of England in succession to Sir John Holt, who had died after a long illness. Parker had powerful backers in the dukes of Devonshire and Somerset. He declined Harley's offer of the office of Lord Chancellor on Lord Cowper's resignation in 1711.

With the death of Queen Anne in 1714, Parker found himself one of those welcoming the new king, George I, with whom he became a great favourite. He was staunchly anti-Jacobite and pro-Hanoverian, and at the opening of Parliament on 11 November 1718 he read the King's speech (George was unable to speak English). He was reappointed Lord Chief Justice in 1714 and created Baron Macclesfield in the county palatine of Chester on 10 March 1716, taking his seat in the House of Lords three days later. Although in favour with the king, Parker incurred the enmity of the Prince of Wales by pronouncing that the king had the sole control over the education and the marriages of his grandchildren.

On 12 May 1718 Parker was appointed Lord Chancellor, and three days afterwards was duly installed in the Court of Chancery. With this office he received from the King a present of £14 000, as well as a pension of £1200 a year for his son, until he should receive a tellership of the exchequer (an office he was awarded in 1719 and held until his death). On 15 November 1721 Parker was created Viscount Parker of Ewelme and Earl of Macclesfield. By the same patent, in default of male issue, the dignities of baroness, viscountess and countess were conferred in remainder upon his daughter Elizabeth, the wife of William Heathcote of Hursley, Hampshire, and the corresponding dignities upon her issue male.

In 1725 came disaster: impeachment for financial irregularities, trial and, to some extent, disgrace. He was accused of dealing in masterships in chancery, and, according to the Dictionary of National Biography, ofreceiving bribes for agreeing to the sale and transfer of offices; with admitting to the office of master several persons ‘who were of small substance and ability, very unfit to be trusted with the great sums of money and other effects of the suitors;’ with suffering the fraudulent practice of masters paying for their places out of the money of the suitors; with endeavouring to conceal the delinquencies of one Fleetwood Dormer, an absconding master; with encouraging the masters to traffic with the money of the suitors; with making use of it himself ‘for his own private service and advantage’; with persuading the masters ‘to make false representations of their circumstances’ at the inquiry; and with assuming ‘an unjust and unlimited power of dispensing with, suspending, and controlling the statutes of this realm’.

He was found guilty, deprived of his offices, expelled from the Privy Council, and ordered to be confined to the Tower of London, where he remained until the huge fine of £30 000 was paid (George I promised to pay the whole but died before he could pay more than £1000). He never again held public office.2

However, he was a rich man, drawing some £3000 per annum from rents in six counties, and was able to spend the last seven years of his life at his new house, building up his library and collections.

Thomas Parker as lawyer and jurist has some claim to fame, but his role as book collector and patron of letters is remarkable. He was something of a Maecenas, and we know from various sources (as well as from some of his books) that he supported or paid pensions to several scholars. He is mentioned several times in contemporary correspondence as subventing scholarship, and several works were dedicated to him in suitably florid terms, with his engraved coat of arms at the head of the dedication. Certainly Zachary Pearce, later Bishop of Rochester, was a recipient of his patronage, as was the French orientalist Jean Gagnier, who settled in Oxford. Indeed, Gagnier, in a letter to Jean le Clerc, says that he was paid 60 guineas: certainly he dedicated to Parker his edition of Isma'il ab-al-Fida De vita, et rebus gestis Mohammedis published in Oxford in 1723. Hutchinson's Xenophon was dedicated to him, and a splendidly bound copy of this is in the library. In a completely different field, various works by another Huguenot refugee, Abraham de Moivre, are in the library (De Moivre, in an inscription presenting a book, tells us that the first Earl was much interested in the study of annuities). Parker's name occurs from time to time as a subscriber to contemporary works, such as Pope's Homer.

His substantial law library has survived intact, including the standard works of English common law, his own notebooks, and many other works on jurisprudence. His attachment to Philip Yorke (1690–1764), later Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, who was taught mathematics as a boy by William Jones (see below), is well known, but Thomas Parker also served as patron to Thomas Clarke (1703/4–64), who became Master of the Rolls. Macclesfield's copy of Selden's edition of Fleta, seu commentarius juris anglicani, etc. (1647) shows the link admirably. The great jurist John Selden had edited this important legal text from a manuscript since lost, and prefaced to it a masterly Dissertatio. This was published in 1647. The Macclesfield copy of this book has been extensively annotated, and formed the basis of the edition edited by Clarke. Lord Macclesfield had strongly recommended Clarke to the favour of Philip Yorke. With such powerful patronage, Clarke's ultimate success was assured, and in January 1740 he was appointed a king's counsel. He became Master of the Rolls in 1754. The Macclesfield family benefited by this link, as on his death Clarke left a large fortune, which he had made himself by his legal practice, to the third Earl of Macclesfield, together with his own law books; hence the presence of Fleta. The wheel had come full circle.

Clearly, a man who has made his mark and much money desires an estate, and the first Earl acquired Shirburn in 1716, spending the large sum of £8350 on its purchase and further sums on its modernization. He would appear to have made substantial changes to the fabric in the years 1716 to ca. 1725; his architectural adviser seems to have been Sir Thomas Hewett (1656–1726), Surveyor-General of the King's Works, and a keen admirer of Palladio. Hewett also acted for Macclesfield's son-in-law Sir William Heathcote Bt at Hursley Lodge (Park) in Hampshire, for which he may also have done some designs. In this connection it is interesting, if far from unusual, that the library is rich in architectural books (and books on the arts of painting), including many editions of Vitruvius, Palladio, Scamozzi and all the classical Italian treatises, as well as some very rare English books of the seventeenth century, such as Hans Blome's A Description of the Five Ordersof Architecture (1668), of which only two copies are recorded, as well as the celebrated annotated Wren copy of Wotton's Elements of architecture.

The first Earl married on 23 April 1691 Janet Carrier of Wirksworth, Derbyshire. They had a son, George, and a daughter, Elizabeth, who married Sir William Heathcote. Thomas Parker, Earl of Macclesfield, died at his son's house in Soho Square on 28 April 1732. He is buried at Shirburn, as is his countess, who died on 23 August 1733.

The second Earl of Macclesfield

George Parker, the second Earl, also played a major role in English life, in fact one of permanent value, in that it was he who, in 1750–52, was largely responsible, at both a scientific and a practical level, for introducing to the British Isles the modern calendar, which he presented both as scientist in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (volume 47) and in the House of Lords. ‘Give us back the eleven days we have been robbed of’ was a cry directed at his son during an election campaign in Oxfordshire in 1754.

George was baptized in 1697 but was probably born in 1696; he was educated at home by William Jones, and then at Cambridge, at Clare College (1715), where he was admitted as a Fellow Commoner. He took his MA from Corpus Christi College as a nobleman's son. On completion of this stage of his education, he went to Italy to make the Grand Tour and in December 1719 was in Venice with Daniel, a son of John Moore (1646–1714), the late Bishop of Ely. Moore had been a formidable book collector, the possessor of a huge library, and a benefactor of Cambridge University library and also of his old college, Clare.

There is a fine ‘Grand Tour’ portrait of the young man, who seems to have had something of an eye for the ladies. In February/March 1722 he had spent ‘nearly two months at Trevi, with a woman of Venice, not very beautiful, but much beloved by him.…’ He went with her from Trevi to Verona, much to the annoyance of his father, who attempted to stop it, and who ordered that the lady should be placed ‘either in a monastery, or where [he] may not know how to find her’.3

After travelling through northern Italy, the Tyrol, Germany and Holland, he was back in England in the summer of 1722. From then until 1727 he was MP for Wallingford. He married first (in 1722) Mary Lane, whose father had important commercial interests in the Levant, by whom he had two sons, and then after her death in 1753 he married (in 1757) Dorothy Nesbitt; this marriage was childless. In 1759 he was made DCL at Oxford, having been elected FRS in 1722. He was President of the Royal Society from 1752 until his death.

It was the second Earl who not only constructed a house in London in St James's Square but also made various improvements at Shirburn, where he erected an observatory. It is unfortunate that of this observatory and chemical laboratory no trace remains. The observatory erected in about 1739 was equipped with the best instruments of the day, a 5-foot transit and a quadrant made by Sisson, clocks by Tompion and Graham, a 14-foot refractor with built-in micrometer, and later a 3¾-foot achromatic by Dollond. The observatory was much used by James Bradley, who later became Astronomer Royal. At one point the Earl recruited Thomas Phelps, a stable-boy, and a shepherd called Bartlett as his assistants, and there is a celebrated engraving by James Watson of the two at work. Observations were made from 1740 until 1787 (for the transit) and from 1743 to 1793 (for the quadrant).

The third Earl of Macclesfield

His son, Viscount Parker, later the third Earl, was educated at Hertford College, Oxford (1740), and represented in Parliament first Oxfordshire (1755–61) and then Rochester (1761–64). He married a cousin, Mary, the daughter of William Heathcote, by whom he had five children. He too was elected FRS and read, in November 1755, an account of the earth tremors detected in the moat at Shirburn on the first day of that month.4 This was, of course, the famous Lisbon earthquake, written about by Fielding and referred to by Voltaire in Candide.

The first three earls were major intellectual figures and patrons of the arts and sciences, and it is their legacy that had left what, by any reckoning, was one of the finest libraries in England.

Natural history books

The first sale was devoted to a selection of 118 natural history books from the library: the present Earl has retained certain English works for his own use. In general terms the library is not rich in such books, and what there are, with a few exceptions, are all early (sixteenth or seventeenth century) or printed before 1750. Among the finest were coloured copies of Fuchs's Historia stirpium (Basel, 1542, lot 49) in a splendid seventeenth-century French binding of red morocco with the arms of Nicolas-Joseph Foucault, and a copy of Commelin and Caspar's Horti medici amstelodamensisdescriptio et icones ad vivum aeri incisae (Amsterdam, 1697–1701, lot 27), in an early eighteenth-century English binding of red morocco decorated in gilt in the Harleian style. There was also a copy of Maria Sibylla Merian's Dissertatio de generatione et metamorphosibus insectorum surinamensium (Amsterdam, 1719), with magnificent counterproof plates coloured by a contemporary hand. Volckamer's Nürnbergische Hesperides, published in Nuremberg by the author in 1708–14, one of the most celebrated books on fruit (lot 114), and a splendid uncoloured copy of Besler's celebrated Hortus eystettensis (Nuremberg, 1613, lot 13), again in a lavish red morocco binding, were also sold. Of paramount importance in the annals of taxonomy is Linnaeus's Systema naturae (Leiden, 1735), and a copy, which included a plate by Ehret ‘Methodus plantarum sexualis in sistemate naturae descripta’, was lot 54. This plate is known in only three other copies of the book: one of them is Linnaeus's own, and one is in the British Library, where the Banks collection also has the original drawing.

These books were sold in March 2004, and the catalogued formed, as it were, a colourful frontispiece to the weightier material that was to follow, by which I mean the vast amount of printed material (with some manuscripts) relating mostly to the mathematical and physical sciences, with a few, very few, items of medical and architectural interest (for the purposes of these catalogues it had been decided to treat architecture as one of the sciences), and some books on other technical subjects such as music and printing. But before proceeding to a discussion of the individual items, let us first review the lives of the two men who really made the collection: John Collins, whose influence was posthumous, and William Jones, who played an important role in the Parker family.

John Collins

If Henry Oldenburg was the postmaster of the Royal Society in its early years, John Collins had a similar role, albeit on a much smaller scale. The two slim volumes of Rigaud's Correspondence of scientific men (Oxford, 1841), edited from the Macclesfield papers, print letters to and from Collins, together with others that he acquired, and a few later ones from the early eighteenth century to and from William Jones. Thus Collins had some of Oughtred's correspondence with various contemporary mathematicians, and other letters from both English and European figures, including Fermat. From the 1660s onwards addressed to Collins we have letters from Thomas Baker, from Isaac Barrow, from Flamsteed, from James Gregory, from Newton (re-edited for the Cambridge edition) and from John Wallis, a new edition of whose letters has just been begun.

Collins5 was born at Wood Eaton in Oxfordshire on 5 March 1625, the son of a nonconformist clergyman. He was apprenticed to the Oxford bookseller Thomas Allam, whose name occurs in the imprints between 1636 and 1639. Collins was later employed as a clerk by John Marr, Clerk to the Kitchen of the Prince of Wales. Between 1642 and 1649 he served on an English merchant ship used by the Venetians as a warship in their struggle with the Turks in Crete.

From 1649 until 1660 he was a teacher of mathematics in London and held several official posts, including that of Manager of the Farthing Office (1672), a post that carried with it a house in Fenchurch Street (‘a very good dwelling house though new and unfitted’),6 but he would really like to have opened ‘a Stationers Shop’.

In October 1667 he was elected FRS, together with the physiologist Richard Lower, their proposer being Seth Ward, the Bishop of Salisbury. Robert Boyle wrote to Oldenburg: ‘I take them both to be able and industrious men in their several professions’ (Oldenburg Corr. III, 540, letter 689). Hardly surprisingly he makes a frequent appearance in the pages of Oldenburg's letters. He married a daughter of William Austen, head cook to Charles II, and lived at various London addresses in Westminster and in the City. His death is recorded at his lodging in Garlick Hill on 10 November 1683, apparently from asthma and a consumption contracted during a ride from Oxford to Malmesbury.

His fascinating letters enable us to construct a picture of Collins's interests and role in the contemporary mathematical and scientific ambience of London. His involvement with Sir Isaac Newton, whom he met in London at the end of November 1669, and with whom a correspondence almost immediately ensued, is well known, but he was connected with many other figures, such as James Gregory. As Professor Alfred Rupert Hall writes:Collins was a minor government servant, an accountant, his acuity of vision fallible. His penchant was toward the study of higher algebraic equations rather than toward advanced analysis and geometry. Collins acted as Oldenburg's mathematical adviser but also maintained an active, independent correspondence with mathematicians in England and abroad, including Newton … and James Gregory … indeed Collins was the only man in the world who knew something of that both these highly original mathematicians were doing … It is to the everlasting credit of these two men [Collins and Oldenburg] but mediocre talent that they recognized the great powers of Gregory, Leibniz and Newton.7

His involvement in the world of books was not simply that of a channel picking up books from catalogues, or sending books off to people.8 He also played an active editorial role. In his a letter to Newton9 Collins mentions that he has ‘taken some care about the Printing the Astronomicall Remaines of Horrox, whereof about ¾ is done which I now send you…’. The same letter gossips about other publications both English and foreign, and is thus fairly typical of much of his correspondence. In a slightly earlier letter to Francis Vernon dated 26 December 1671,10 Collins writes about sending and receiving all manner of books, mentions the same detail about the printing of Horrox, and proposes a ‘Barter Commerce between their [foreign] Booksellers and ours naming the learned and best commutable’. How far this ever got, we cannot tell, but certainly Collins, obviously, and by his own admission, a bookseller manqué, was an important conduit for the acquisition and marketing of scientific literature. Collins had become, as it were, the mathematical adviser to Oldenburg in 1667, the year in which he was elected FRS, and furnished him with mathematical gossip and information, which Oldenburg put into Latin. (Oldenburg was a competent mathematician, and needed to be in order to act as a suitable conduit). In 1668 Collins was seeing Barrow's Lucasian lectures through the press, and he told Oldenburg what Barrow had told him of Newton's discoveries.

The recently published second volume of Wallis's letters11 contains several letters to and from Collins, all now printed with commentary from the autographs once at Shirburn (and printed by Rigaud) and now in Cambridge, of which the editors remark ‘Wallis's correspondence with Collins covers almost as equally large and varied a number of themes as that with Oldenburg. Many of the letters contain details of recent scientific publications on the Continent…’. A fine example of Wallis's use of Collins is the letter dated 10/[20] September 1668 (letter 248) in which Wallis asks Collins to transcribetwo or three propositions out of my papers… to send away with the enclosed letter to Lalovera.… These you may please to transcribe (carefully)…The will contain (I suppose) about two sheets of paper or more.… I shall send you by Moor the carrier, one of my books de Cycloide to be sent with it; that being too big to come by the Post. If the thing be dispatched time inough, it may bee sent by the same hand that carryes my letter to Mr Hugens,12 which perhaps my Lord Broucker may have shewed you. One Theodorus Riccius [Dirck de Rycke (1650–90)], who lyes at Mr Edward Robert's house, near York-house; & takes in Post-letters. This Riccius is suddenly going directly to Paris….

In 1669 Collins had read Newton's early De analysi, about which he wrote enthusiastically to Sluse (via Oldenburg), in 1670. In 1670 when Tschirnhaus came to London, Collins met him, as did John Wallis. Oldenburg and Tschirnhaus corresponded during the time that the latter was in Paris, Oldenburg for the most part acting as international intermediary for mathematical information passed on by Collins. It was thus that Leibniz, whose own mathematical prowess was rapidly increasing, learned of Newton's method of determining tangents to complex curves (as subject that Sluse had also discussed, but differently), and something of Newton's work on infinite series. In 1671/2 Collins wrote to Oldenburg about the readiness for the press of Newton's ‘introduction to algebra, his generall method of analyticall Quadratures, and 20 Dioptick lectures’.13 It was also through Collins that Newton and Sluse, the Liège mathematician, knew of each other's work and methods, Newton even conceding that Sluse had anticipated him.14

Early in 1676 Newton composed a lengthy letter, the Epistola prior, in which he described what he had done with reference to the development of infinite series and the binomial theorem. This was copied and sent to Leibniz by Oldenburg in July 1676, and the original was returned to Newton. In early October 1676 Leibniz came to London on his way back to Germany and met Collins, and it was at this point that Collins showed him copies of some of Newton's papers. Newton had been working on, but had not completed, his Epistola posterior, a copy of which Leibniz received at length in June 1677, and about which he was greatly excited, writing twice to Oldenburg. Neither Newton nor Collins was in London in early August 1677 but, at the end of August, Collins returned to London and sent copies of Leibniz's letters to Newton. We do not know of Newton's reactions, and the death of Oldenburg in early September put an end to the exchange of letters between the two. When the subject was revived years later, it caused the most bitter personal animosity and a major controversy.

Collins's legacy lived on. In the third edition of Principia we find a change in the text,15 and what had been printed in the first and second editions (beginning ‘in literis quae mihi cum geometra peritissimo G. G. Leibnitio…’) is now changed to ‘in epistola quadam ad D. J. Collinium nostratem 10 decemb. 1672 data, cum descripsissem’.16

It is not easy to distinguish, unless by the presence of his handwriting, those books that were definitely Collins's, but his letters and their bookish talk afford us some insight. In his letter to Newton dated 13 July 1670,17 Collins refers to Waessenaer's Onwissen Wistconstenaer, to Scheubelius, Van Ceulen and James Hume ‘which bookes I herewith send and having another Scheubelius here, you need not return that sent, wherewith be pleased to accept of another Libellus de machine aquatica’. Now there are copies of the little book by Waessenaer, and of the other authors in the collection, and in general, when Collins mentions a book, a copy is to be found in the Macclesfield Library. It is therefore probably not unreasonable to suppose that anything published before 1683 belonged to him, unless there is definite evidence to the contrary. Writing to Pell (Rigaud, op. cit, pp. 127–128) in April 1667 he says:Dr. Scarborough [Sir Charles Scarborough (1616–94, FRS 1662)] once lent me a thin folio entitled, Problema austriacum, dedicated to the emperor, but when or where printed not intimated, not the author's name or letters of his name. The book I translated, and cannot now find my translation…. [he proceeds to give a résumé of this work]18

There is now a copy of this slim volume of 10 leaves (printed by Straub in Munich in 1653) in the collection (lot 1688), but there is no real way of telling whether Collins had it during his lifetime or whether it came from the Scarborough sale in 1695.

William Jones

When the great orientalist William (later Sir William) Jones (1746–94) wrote to his erstwhile pupil Viscount Althorp in August 1775, he described looking out over Conwy Bay towards Anglesey, ‘the ancient Mona’ and the village of his father's childhood, Llandabo. William Jones senior had, by dint of intellect and hard work, escaped the narrow confines of Anglesey, aided by his first patron Lord Bulkeley and by talent and adroit patronage had become well established in London. A similar mixture of intellect and determination had served not only Jones's patrons, Lords Macclesfield and Hardwicke, but also the great Newton. Law and learning have ever served as vehicles for social, and sometimes financial, advancement.

It was Philip Yorke, later first Earl Hardwicke (1690–1764) and himself Lord Chancellor for 19 years, who was in 1708 or so tutor to the Parker children, who introduced William Jones to Thomas Parker, and it was Thomas Parker's heir, George, the second Earl, who had been Jones's pupil, who succeeded his father as patron and ultimately as the owner of Jones's library and papers when Jones died in 1749.

Jones19 was born in 1675, some eight years before Collins died, at Llanfihangel Tw'r Beird, in Anglesey, an island off the coast of Wales. He was the son of a farmer, John George Jones, and his wife, Elizabeth Rowland, and early on showed great competence in calculation. At some time in the 1690s he established himself in London through the efforts of his patron, the local landowner, Lord Bulkeley, and entered a counting house. He travelled to the West Indies and taught mathematics aboard ship, and in 1702 he was present at the capture of Vigo. On his return to London he became a teacher of mathematics and published his first work, on navigation. He also seems to have penned those sections on navigation in Harris's Lexicon technicum (1704). He was tutor to Philip Yorke, first Earl of Hardwicke, then to Thomas Parker, the first Earl of Macclesfield, and subsequently to his son George, the second Earl. He held many official posts, and in 1711 was appointed a member of the committee set up by the Royal Society to investigate the calculus, and wrote (with Machin and Halley) the printed report on the matter. In terms of what he means to us on an everyday basis, it was Jones who introduced the Greek letter π as the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which was later adopted by Euler (1739).

The acquisition in 1708 by Jones of Collins's papers20 came at a fortunate time because Newton was then concerned with the question of Leibniz's primacy in the discovery of the calculus, and Collins's papers were of great use. In 1712 Jones made them available to the Royal Society for the publication of Commercium epistolicum, but he retrieved them in the 1730s and in 1741 returned the bulk of them, but not all, in a bound volume to the Society.

When Jones published De analysi with no indication of Newton's authorship other than in the preface, he made ample use, with Newton's agreement, of these papers, and added, in addition to De quadratura, Enumeratio linearum tertii ordinis and Methodus differentialis, fragments of four letters to Oldenburg, Wallis and Collins. In this preface he attempted to give a very brief history of Newton's mathematical evolution. Jones also penned for Thomas Birch a fuller English account of Newton's mathematics, which remains unpublished, and is dismissed by Professor Whiteside as ‘ unscholarly’ and ‘a mere historical curiosity’. Be that as it may, Jones's importance is obvious.

De quadratura was famously published with Opticks in 1704, but the presence of the completely unknown manuscript leaf with two pages of text in Newton's own hand, inserted into the copy of the book (lots 1522 and 1533 in the sale of 14 April 2005), shows that Jones printed what Newton had written himself. The Methodus differentialis was in 1711 printed from Jones's transcription of Newton's own autograph, which does not survive, but some fragments of a ‘preliminary augmentation of 1676 parent text’ are printed by Whiteside from the originals in Cambridge University Library (dating from just before 1710). Whiteside also prints the full text of Jones's transcription.21

Jones's edition of these texts earned him his Fellowship of the Royal Society and praise at home and abroad. On the home front Roger Cotes wrote on 15 February 1711 congratulating him, and it was to Jones that Cotes, who was editing the second edition of Principia, was to send the text of the index to that (completed in April 1713). Cotes wrote on 3 May 1713 delighted that Jones had approved the index but stating ‘that it was not design'd to be of any use to such readers as your self, but to those of ordinary capacity’.

That these transcripts of Jones were circulated and read we know from the treatise on fluxions (dating from 1671), which served as the text from which Colson in 1736 produced an English translation, and Horsley in 1779 used a copy of the Jones transcript (as well as the autograph, now in Cambridge) when he published Geometria analytica for the first time. This copy was communicated to Horsley by Charles Cavendish ‘cum ipse eum olim a Jonesio acceperat’, which seems to suggest that it was a second copy and not Jones's own. (Lord Charles Cavendish (1704–83) was the third son of William, second Duke of Devonshire, himself an amateur of natural philosophy, and father of Henry Cavendish the scientist (1731–1810).)

As FRS Jones served on the Council several times, becoming Vice-President. In 1718 he lived at Tibbald's [Theobald's] Court, Tibbald's Row, near Red Lion Square, London, but he spent much time at Shirburn. He married Maria Nix, daughter of the cabinet-maker George Nix, and they had one son, the linguistic scholar and judge Sir William Jones (1746–94). He died in London on 1 or 3 July 1749.

Jones also wrote A new compendium of the whole art of navigation (1702), for which the tables were done by Flamsteed; Synopsis palmariorum matheseos (1706); and in 1731 Discourses of the natural philosophy of the elements. He also edited some other works, and several books were dedicated to him (from about 1720 to 1740). In the Macclesfield library these copies tend to be easily recognizable, as they are among the very few books bound in red morocco and with elaborately gilt spines.

Jones's library

His library must have been collected between about 1705 and his death; thus, over a period of roughly 45 years. In addition to the scientific library he had many other books, and we know that he acquired the great collection of Welsh manuscripts and printed books, many of the latter unique copies, made by Moses Williams (1686–1742), the Welsh scholar and antiquary. This collection was at Shirburn from his death, and was sold en bloc in 1899. It now forms the core collection of The National Library of Wales.22 One assumes that it was Jones who also acquired (possibly from the Williams family) the interesting early eighteenth-century manuscripts in Basque that still form part of the collection, as well as many of the other philological works.

That Jones not only owned but carefully read his books is clear from his notes, written sometimes in the book and sometimes on inserted leaves, and nearly always of a mathematical nature: occasionally he has indicated, for example with Greaves's copy of the 1543 Copernicus (lot 557), something about a previous owner. He is like many others who annotated their books, and occasionally in so doing metamorphosed them completely. We may perhaps use the words used of his near contemporary Hooke, whose praises are thus sung in the foreword to the 1703 catalogue: ‘and that the world may be satisfied that he was not a bare Idle Possessor of them, he hath left behind him many curious notes on some, considerable M.S.S. Improvements to others, not unworthy the View and Perusal of the Virtuosi of the Age.’

It can be seen then that at different periods in Newton's life, first Collins and then Jones played important roles, and the Macclesfield Library, as the final recipient of their books and papers, is a quite extraordinary link with Newton. When in 1752 William Stukeley, the historian of druids and archaeologist—and like Newton a Lincolnshire man, at one time resident in Grantham—wrote an account of Newton, he recounted how after his election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society in March 1717/18 at the recommendation of Dr Richard Mead, the physician and collector (who attended Newton in his final illness), he often visited Newton ‘sometime with Dr. Mead, Dr. Halley, or Dr. Brook Taylor, Mr. W. Jones or Mr. Folkes and others’.

Jones was the intimate of many British men of science, and a respected correspondent of foreign savants: Maupertuis inscribed a copy of Discours sur les différentes figures des astres (Paris, 1732) to him (lot 1335), and Jones sent a copy of Machin's The laws of the moon's motion according to gravity, itself an extract from Newton's The mathematical principles of natural philosophy (London: B. Motte, 1729), with a letter in which he writes of ‘a little piece just published here; composed by a particular friend of mine, got from him much against his will … and tack'd by the bookseller to an English edition of Sir Is. Newton's principia [sic]’, and of how Machin had communicated his views to Newton before the publication of the second edition of Principia in 1713, ‘but the author despaired of attracting any attention…’. In fact Machin (and Pemberton) were eventually mentioned in the third edition (p. 451): ‘alia ratione motum nodorum J. Machin… & Hen.. Pemberton M. D. seorsum invenerunt’. Jones was a member of the group of ‘infidels’ who gathered around Martin Folkes (also President of the Royal Society) and was a Freemason, as indeed was J. T. Desaguliers, who as Deputy Grand-Master signed the dedication to the Duke of Montagu, of The Constitutions of the Free-Masons (1723). It was to Jones's pupil and patron, George Parker, second Earl of Macclesfield, and himself President of the Royal Society, that most fittingly Stukeley dedicated his memoir of Newton.

The scientific library

It was stated earlier that the sale of the scientific portion of the library totals some 2290 lots, from which one might be abstracted, but this is not the full picture because there have been 180 or so volumes of tracts, containing at a conservative estimate some 900 separate items. The actual number of discrete items is therefore about 3200, and almost all were written or printed before 1750 (the number published after that date is about a dozen). As a comparison, one might point out that the celebrated Honeyman scientific collection, collected from about 1920 until the 1970s and dispersed in seven sales held from 1978 to 1981, which covered a much wider chronological spectrum (right up to the twentieth century), contained 3309 lots. The books were sparsely illustrated and even more sparsely catalogued. The Norman collection, dispersed at auction by Christies in New York in three sales in 1998, encompassed some 1384 lots, again extending from the fifteenth to the twentieth century. The six volumes of the Macclesfield catalogues so far published total about 1620 pages (of which the Macclesfield Psalter accounts for some 21 pages). Every effort has been made to document every bibliographically discrete item properly. Although it is no longer current practice to publish the names of buyers, their names are recorded, and we already know that in certain cases British institutions have acquired books. The 1544 Archimedes annotated by the Oxford mathematician John Greaves (lot 180) is now in the Bodleian23 and the unique complete copy of the first book in English on arithmetic An Introduction for lerne to rekyn with the pen & withe the counters, [etc.] (St Albans: J. Herford for R. Stevenage, 1537; lot 1095) is now safely in the British Library.

So far I have mentioned only the first sale, the coloured frontispiece, as it were, of the natural history books, but now we must consider the scientific books proper, both as a group and, in certain specific instances, as either unique or very special elements in the history of science.

In book-collecting circles it is far from unusual to collect by manuals or lists. The early codification of books printed in the fifteenth century by Maittaire and Panzer (1719–25, and 1793–1803), and then Ludwig Hain (1826) served to provide highly informative lists for the collecting of incunabula and early sixteenth-century printed books. The work of Edward Harwood (first published in 1750) and others provided similar lists for editiones principes of classical texts. There were sale catalogues of celebrated collections (and less well known ones) that were used as guides for collecting from the second half of the seventeenth century, and for mathematical books we have the Bibliotheca mathematica of Cornelis van Beughem (the author of a number of such works), published in 1688, a tubby little volume of some 524 pages, which in addition to details of mathematical books in all European languages includes a lengthy analysis of Blaeu's great Atlas (pp. 464–498). Although no definite evidence of its being used by Jones to amass the collection is contained in the volume, it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that it was so used. There are some contemporary sale catalogues in the collection, and there is clear evidence that books were bought at sales in the period 1700–50; the names of Charles Bernard, physician and collector (sale 22 March 1711), of Robert Hooke (sale 29 April 1703), and later that of Halley (sale 20 May 1742) can all be found in certain volumes and the actual lots identified. Sometimes the provenance of the volumes leads us to other great libraries, scattered centuries ago.

In the natural history sale there was, as already mentioned, a very fine coloured copy of Fuchs's Historia stirpium. This was from the library of Nicolas Joseph Foucault, and there are several works in the Macclesfield collection from this great French library, including the finest printed book in the library, a magnificent copy of the edition of Pliny's Historia naturalis. This was printed in Rome in 1470 by Sweynheym & Pannartz, and this copy is one of three printed on vellum. It has contemporary manuscript decoration and is a real objet de luxe. Its earlier provenance is interesting (see lot 1647 in the sale of 25 and 26 October 2005 for details), but its entry into the Macclesfield library is from the Foucault collection, and it is the books from this source, which are found throughout the library, that provide the grandest books in the collection.

Nicolas Joseph Foucault, Marquis de Magny (1643–1721), was the son of Charles Foucault (ca. 1620–91), a protégé of Colbert's. The son initially intended to become a priest, but the death of his elder brother led to his abandoning the clerical life. He studied first at Paris, then law at Orleans, and was called to the Paris Bar in November 1664. Colbert's interest led to his preferment, and eventually he came to Caen in Normandy. In 1701 he was elected to the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. In 1706 he resigned his intendance in favour of his son, a spendthrift and a ‘bad lot’ who caused his father many problems. Foucault himself went to live in Paris in 1704, still conseiller d'état, and died there in February 1721/2.

His library was rich in great manuscripts and printed books, and he obviously had a penchant for books on vellum. He was at one time owner of the celebrated Sherbourne Missal, later the property of the dukes of Northumberland and since 1998 in the British Library. His collection of antiquities was praised by the Benedictine scholar Bernard de Montfaucon: ‘toujours attentif à faire plaisir aux gens de lettres, il a prévenu ceux qui travaillaient sur l'antiquité, et, comme un autre Peiresc, il leur a offert avec plaisir ce qu'il n'avoit ramassé que pour l'utilité publique…’.24

In Caen his librarian and antiquarian was Antoine Galland (1646–1711), the orientalist and the first translator into French of The Arabian Nights, and it was Galland who catalogued and arranged the collections and published materials from it.

The dispersal of his books seems to have taken place over several years and not just after his death; indeed, as Delisle says, ‘la bibliothèque de F. fut dispersée, et ce malheur s'accomplit … du vivant même de celui qui l'avait formée’. Baluze already had a Foucault manuscript before 1719, and le Long writing in the same year says that many manuscripts had passed into the library of M. l'abbé de Rothelin.

The dispersal is well illustrated by other volumes in English collections, all acquired before the middle of the eighteenth century, and mostly at a sale held in London by Thomas Ballard on 20 February 1720/1 (Bl. S. C. 258 (6) A catalogue of choice and valuable books in most faculties and languages, etc.). This sale saw wholesale purchases of manuscripts by Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford, and these are now in the British Library,25 but the Pliny was not among the books offered.

Some manuscripts found their way to the Bibliothèque du Roi at various times. Many of Foucault's manuscripts had passed into the enormous collection of Charles d'Orléans, abbé de Rothelin (1691–1744), which was sold in Paris in 1747 (catalogue dated 1746). It was at this sale that the Sherbourne Missal was sold (no. 248), and it was from this date that others passed into Scottish, German, Danish and other collections.

It would seem likely that this Pliny was on the market in the 1720s, when we know that the first Earl of Macclesfield, recently ennobled and about to acquire a great house, was busy collecting, and that this volume and others from the collection, like the Gaguin, were in England probably before the death of Foucault, but it is possible that they did not reach England until later.

With the four science catalogues (parts 2, 4, 5 and 6) we have also included a relatively small number of technical books on architectural theory and design (with a few on painting, all under the names of the authors, for example Lomazzo, Palladio and Vitruvius), musical theory, all grouped together under the word Music (lots 1472–1500), and printing, similarly gathered under the word Printing. Every item has been catalogued fully—author statement (with dates), title, imprint, size, collation (page collation, and in some cases signature collations), illustration statement and binding statement—and by means of footnotes (sometimes very extensive) we have striven to place the item in context, drawing attention not only to content of the work but also to its position in the larger framework of its time, and where there are annotations, identifying (as far as possible) and placing these. The catalogues are profusely illustrated in both colour and black and white, and are case-bound.

The library catalogue

The excitement of the Macclesfield Library lies not only in the splendour of its holdings but also that it has never been accessible or much known about. Although Edward Edwards (1812–86) catalogued the library to a very high standard in the early 1860s (both the printed and manuscript material, by author and by subject), this catalogue remained and remains in manuscript in the library, the bound volumes now somewhat dilapidated, and unlike some late nineteenth-century English private library catalogues—Chatsworth, Knowsley, Aldenham and the Huth library—it has never been published. Edwards did a magnificent job and seems to have missed hardly anything in terms of recording the existence of an item and where it can be found on the shelves, whether as a complete volume, or an element in a volume, but bibliographical science has moved on greatly since 1860, and he also did not bother much about provenance or annotation.

Nineteenth-century and twentieth-century use of the library

The great glory of the library, the Science collection, although it was known in the earlier part of the nineteenth century, was not so much to the bibliophilic taste of the times, but it was accessible. The unique copy of Salusbury's Mathematical collections was certainly made available to John Elliott Drinkwater, who borrowed it when writing The life of Galileo published in 1829. The Oxford astronomer Stephen Rigaud in 1841 published posthumously (the work was seen through the press by his son S. J. Rigaud) Correspondence of scientific men of the seventeenth century in two volumes. Much later in the century were published an edition of the Basque text of Genesis and part of Exodus, published from a manuscript at Shirburn in the series Anecdota Oxoniensia, edited by Llewelyn Thomas26, and a Basque Grammar by the same author, also in the library, published in 1900,27 and in 1907 The Shirburn Ballads 15851615 (published in Oxford), edited by Andrew Clark, who had edited Aubrey's Brief lives. In more recent years, even if access to the library was rarely given, and, it was claimed, Salusbury could not be found, the Newton letters and mathematical papers were made available to be included in the great Cambridge editions. Julian Roberts, who used to be Keeper of Printed Books at the Bodleian, and who before that in the 1950s and 1960s was at the British Museum Library, tells me that he remembers going to see a unique English item (a translation into Latin and English of Lucian's Necromantia printed in Southwark (in 1530?), designated as STC 16895), and the architectural historian Sir Howard Colvin was allowed to see the annotated copy of the Wren family of Sir Henry Wotton's Elements of architecture (1624).

But pride of place must be given to Copernicus, of the first edition (1543) of whose De revolutionibus the Macclesfield Library had a celebrated copy. In 1977 Professor Owen Gingerich went to see this, and as he records in his delightful memoir, happily did so on a day when the eighth Earl of Macclesfield and his countess had a cook and were therefore able to offer him lunch. The copy, which was sold in June 2004 (lot 557, catalogue II, pp. 299–310), had belonged to the mathematician and traveller John Greaves (1602–52), described by Professor Toomer as ‘one of the most interesting characters in the intellectual history of that most interesting of English centuries’, whose ‘enormous energy, curiosity, and breadth of vision combined to make him extremely effective in extending the bounds of scholarship’.28 The book is annotated in Greaves's small, neat hand in a mixture of Latin, English and Arabic, and particularly interesting is an account dated June 1648 of some experiments involving mercury performed at the house of Jonathan Goddard (1617–75), one of the earliest members of the Royal Society, in the presence of the Elector Palatine and Lord Herbert, probably the fourth Earl of Pembroke (d. 1650), the patron of Inigo Jones and Van Dyck. Nor is this the only book annotated by Greaves. I have already mentioned the copy of the 1544 Archimedes now in the Bodleian, and lot 1989 is a copy of the 1558 Paris edition of the Sphaerica of Theodosius of Tripoli, again with extensive textual marginalia by Greaves.

The pamphlet volumes

Greaves wrote a book on the pyramids, which he visited, and one of his visits was made in the company of a strange Italian from Belluno, Tito Livio Burattini (1617–80?). Burattini was a great traveller and spent much of his time in Poland. In 1675 at the Franciscan press in Vilnius, he published Misura universale, an attempt to establish a universal scheme of weights and measures, and in the preface to this work he tells us of his visit to the great pyramid in 1639 with Greaves. This slight folio tract is bound with three others, one Newton's Table of the assays, eights and values of most foreign silver, and gold coins, [etc.], published probably in 1731, a 1668 pamphlet published by the Distillers’ Company of London (Wing D1692), and Edward Hayward's The sizes and lengths of riggings for all His Majesties ships, [etc.], 1660 (Wing H1230), a work originally published in 1655 whose circulation was severely restricted.

This grouping of items within the covers of a single volume is one of the great features of the library. There are hundreds and hundreds of tract volumes, mostly bound in about 1760, with a group bound in the mid-nineteenth century, and generally related in subject, their spines having a red label with some fairly laconic general title. For ease of reference these titles have been retained as headings in the sale catalogues, each of which has an alphabetical index of authors, which enables any work to be found. There will be a cumulative index for all parts.

Whereas most of these tract volumes do not contain any indication of earlier provenance, occasionally they do, and lot 217 in the first sale is a good example. It contained six items printed between 1538 and 1616 and one item printed in Venice in 1725, in all seven items. One was a very rare item by Rheticus, his Canon doctrinae triangulorum (Leipzig: J. Günter, 1551), and one the first edition of Gemma Frisius's Arithmeticae practicae methodus facilis (Antwerp: A. Coppenius for G. de Bonte, 1540). The latter had an inscription dated 1543 in both Greek and Latin recording that it belonged to William Cecil & Friends; Cecil, the great statesman of Elizabeth I, must have acquired it in London, where he had entered Gray's Inn in 1541 after his years at St John's College, Cambridge (elsewhere in the library is his copy of the 1550 Greek New Testament printed in Paris).

Many, many very rare, and some unique, items are contained in these volumes. Lot 271 in the first sale, under the word Astronomy, contained eight works, one of them the fascinating account in Latin (but according to the title-page translated from the German) of the destruction of Hevelius's house in Gdansk (Danzig) in September 1679. This pamphlet of four leaves was printed at Hamburg in 1679, and only one copy has been located (University Library Greifswald). The work seems to be by someone called Capellus, who signed the dedication to Sir Peter Wyche (1628–99; FRS 1662), and recounts how Hevelius's coachman left a candle burning in the stables, which went up in flames. The wind fanned the flames towards the main body of the house, which caught fire, and immediately every attempt was made to rescue what could be saved, bound volumes being thrown through the window, some of which were immediately stolen but most of which were saved. Of the unbound stock of Hevelius's books not a leaf was saved; a list is given of the titles, and we are told that of the second part of Machina coelestis ‘scarce ten copies had been sold, so that now no more are to be found in the whole world, except those few which the distinguished author has sent to kings and princes, as well as to a few friends’. Similarly the instruments described in part 1 of the work had been destroyed, and well as the great telescope, the printing press, the types, and all the paper for producing his Prodromus astronomiae. What was saved consisted of ‘a good part of the bound books with manuscripts of greater importance’ (which are listed), his correspondence with the learned world, Kepler's manuscripts, and the copper plates for his publications. This information is of great interest. The lot was sold for roughly £42 000 (exclusive of premium) against an estimate of £10 000–15 000, and although not all such volumes have made multiples of their estimates, most of these pamphlet volumes have sold very well.

Books and pamphlets in many languages are to be found, the bulk in Latin, English and Italian, but all European languages are represented, from Russian (there is a fine copy of Magnitskii's Arifmetika of 1703, the first Russian work on mathematics and the second non-religious book to be printed in Moscow; lot 2245, offered for sale in October 2005) and Swedish to Portuguese, and there are books printed in Arabic and Persian, such as the Arabic Euclid of 1592 (lots 714 and 715). Places of imprint range from Moscow to Castres, a small town in southern France (a copy of the French translation of Benedetti's Della misura dell'acque correnti, published there in 1664, and recorded in only three copies), from Rome and Venice to Cambridge and Vilnius, from Prague to Uppsala, and even to the New World (New York, Boston and Lima). This universal spread is true not only of the science library but also of the other parts of the library.

Medieval and later manuscripts

Nor is it only printed books that are to be found in the scientific library. There are a few manuscripts of great scientific interest, of which six medieval manuscripts were sold in June 2004. One of these (lot 582) was an English manuscript (from the first half of the thirteenth century) of a text by Hermann of Reichenau (1013–54), De compositione astrolabii (with other texts), which may have been written in Cambridge (it has a Cambridge Dominican provenance of the early fifteenth century), which would make it one of the earliest manuscripts to have been produced there (the university was founded in 1209). A copy of works by Johannes de Sacrobosco (John Holywood) dating from the late thirteenth century, and possibly written in Oxford (lot 583), and three other manuscripts written in Spain between 1300 and 1350 (probably once bound together (Quadrans vetus and other texts, lot 584; Profacius Judaeus, lot 585; and a copy of Alexander de Villa Dei, Carmen de algorismo, lot 886) seem to have been acquired by Jones, and most importantly a copy—written in western Germany in about 1350—of Dietrich von Freiberg's De iride, a well-known text on the rainbow, was once in 1370 in the Dominican convent at Würzburg. This is an important text, of which five manuscripts are recorded in European libraries.

However, there are several much more modern manuscripts, one (as already mentioned) a previously unrecorded piece by Newton found loosely inserted in a copy of the 1711 edition of De analysi edited by William Jones (lot 1523), and one an alchemical/chemical notebook by Halley (lot 969). In addition there are various small notebooks on surveying and dialling as well as a few letters and similar short pieces from such as John Wallis, found inserted in various volumes and described with them (see for example lot 1706, a copy of the English edition of Rahn's Algebra).

A particularly interesting item in the last sale of the scientific portion of the library was an early eighteenth-century manuscript of the so called Collection of the Greek mathematician Pappus. This manuscript, which is very clearly dated at the end of Friday, 2 June 1710 at 5 p.m., is a vivid testimony to the interest in this text in Oxford in the first decade of the eighteenth century, an interest that had been constant from the first appearance of the Latin translation by Commandino in 1588. It serves to knit together work of the great Oxford mathematician of the seventeenth century, John Wallis, and work done by David Gregory and more particularly by Halley, whose autograph is to be found in the volumes; it also has connections with work done later in the century in Glasgow and again in Oxford. It is copied from two manuscripts in the Bodleian Library that belonged to Sir Henry Savile. Although Pappus had been printed in a Latin translation by Commandino published posthumously in 1588, and had been much studied in this form, it was not until 1688 that John Wallis printed any part of the Greek text in his edition of Aristarchus's De magnitudinibus et distantiis solis et lunae. This was the incomplete Book II, which is in fact not present in the present manuscript. The Greek text was often copied: roughly contemporary with this copy is a manuscript in Christ Church, Oxford, made for Henry Aldrich, Dean of Christ Church. It was certainly much read, and both David Gregory and Halley made a careful study of certain lemmata of Pappus insofar as they related to their edition of Apollonius Conica, a work published by them (after Gregory's death) in 1710 at Oxford. This Macclesfield manuscript (lot 1588 in the sale in October 2005) was obviously made in Oxford and bears traces of having been used by Halley. By a strange accident of history we also find, in the first volume of this manuscript, five pages of manuscript translation into Latin of the beginning of book III in the hand of John Wallis; it therefore, as it were, serves to join together two strands of mathematical activity in Oxford and also points to a later development, which unfortunately came to nothing.

The Oxford interest in Pappus (who was not in fact printed until the edition of Hultsch published in Berlin in the 1870s) did not go away. Stephen Rigaud, the editor of Correspondence of scientific men of the seventeenth century has an interesting tale to tell in one of his manuscripts now in the Bodleian Library (MS. Rigaud 53), which contains extracts from the minutes of the Delegates of the University Press. Here we learn of the unsuccessful attempt to publish the Greek text in Oxford in the middle of the eighteenth century, an idea first mooted in 1758 but still soldiering on in the 1770s until it was eventually abandoned in 1782.

It was intended that it should be done in the same format and using the same types as the great Euclid of 1703 and the Apollonius of 1710, but interestingly the Christ Church manuscript of Pappus contains, loosely inserted, four copies in 8vo of a specimen of the beginning of Book III set in type. This is in Baskerville's Greek, which first arrived in Oxford in 1761 and was famously used to print the New Testament. This specimen, one must presume, dates from ca. 1770. It was in connection with this project that the copy of Commandino's Latin translation with Robert Simson's notes transcribed in the margins by a Mr Adair in Glasgow was acquired by the Bodleian (now Arch. Bod. D 55 and 56), being delivered from Glasgow via London to Oxford at the end of April 1776.

Simson, who had met Edmund Halley in London around the time that the Macclesfield Pappus manuscript was being written, was passionately interested in the Greek mathematicians (perhaps engendered by Halley), and himself possessed a manuscript of Pappus, which had been bought in Paris in 1748 from Jean Jacques Dortous de Mairan (1678–1771), secretary of the Académie Royale des Sciences, and a figure known to William Jones. The buyer was James Moore or Moor (bap. 1712–79), a pupil of Simson's (whom he assisted in his editions of Apollonius and Euclid) and a distinguished Greek scholar, whose fine library was sold at auction in 1779. Moor edited many texts for the Foulis press (Robert Foulis was his brother-in-law), among them not only the famous Homer but also more interestingly—from a purely mathematical point of view—Archimedes's Arenarius published in 1751.29

Simson bequeathed his extensive library to the University of Glasgow, where it is still preserved as the Simson Collection. His manuscripts were left to his friend and colleague James Clow, professor of philosophy, with the request that he should put them in order and have them published, and it was in fact Clow who arranged for the copy of the Commandino to be made for Oxford.

Library connections

Although the latter part of this story has little to do with the Macclesfield Library itself, it does serve to show how close is the involvement of this remarkable collection in the history of English science and how the whole collection, whether of printed or manuscript material, is of great importance and forms an important record of scientific and intellectual life in this country for the years 1650–1750. It is to be hoped that although much has been discovered about individual items—and I must refer readers to the catalogue for an exploration of these—there will remain other strands of intellectual history to be unravelled, and it is equally hoped that the catalogues themselves will form a permanent record of this wonderful collection, on which it has been my privilege to work for so long, and on the remaining aspects of which—philology, law, biblical studies, history and much else besides—further work over the next few years remains to be done.

In sum, the intensive work done on the books and papers in the library, alas now separated from their original home, will, it is hoped, yield much information about intellectual life, book collecting and other aspects of the culture of the first half of the eighteenth century in England, as well as incidentally illuminating much from earlier periods. The earlier members of the Parker family, together with their lieutenants, with their wealth and connections created this great library some 300 years ago. It is the twenty-first century that has revealed it in its multifarious connections.


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