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Lot 301

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Sir Isaac Newton Highly Important Manuscript on God & Creation, 4p. or Almost 2,300 Words in his Hand! 

NEWTON, ISAAC. 1642-1726/7.  Autograph Manuscript in English, exploring the nature of God, 4 pp., bifolium, 7.25" x 11.75", ink on paper with margins ruled in ink for further notation, c.1710, approximately 2260 words, extensively reworked, underlined and amended, some splitting at fold.

Provenance: Isaac Newton; Catherine Barton (1679–1739); by descent, sold Sotheby's, July 1936, (partial) lot 255, as part of the Portsmouth Papers, to bookseller Emmanuel Fabius.

"IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD...." A HIGHLY IMPORTANT NEWTON MANUSCRIPT ON GOD AND CREATION. Working at the highest level of metaphysics, and looking to the Gospel of John, Newton contemplates the Divine Word at the core of Creation, inquiring both into its pre-existence and into its immanence ("incarnation"), drawing mystical parallels from the Kabbalah and other sources.

Newton deemed his theological studies "a duty of the greatest moment," and this extraordinary manuscript shows Newton at his most "dutiful" – exploring a cornerstone text of Christian thought, John 1:1-5, seeking to determine how Christ can be said God. Balancing scholarship and philosophy, Newton begins by analyzing the views of Christ held by the earliest Christian sects (based on Epiphanius's Against Heresies, 4th-century) and seeks to connect them to the Kabbalistic doctrines of the Sephirot and of the Adam Kadmon ("Transcendent Man"). Affirming in the concluding paragraph that "this state of the primitive Church explains to us the true meaning of the beginning of the gospel of John," Newton proceeds to articulate his understanding of "In the beginning was the Word...," explicitly asserting his definition of God.

Written contemporaneously with his "General Scholium," added to the Principia in 1713, this manuscript casts valuable light on the conceptual foundations of Newton's physics. It has long been recognized that the Scholium articulates a theo-physical theory of the universe (God originating nature), and the present manuscripts offers Newton's direct testimony on the one New Testament text most central to his theo-physical theory of the Creation, John 1:1-5, consciously echoing Genesis 1:1-5 ("Let there be light..."). Highlighting the Creative Logos both ontologically and in its cosmic functioning, John 1:1-5 crucially links Newton's physics to his metaphysics -- pointing at the very essence of Nature.

This is the most significant Newton manuscript on theology to be offered at auction during the past 50 years – a spectacular example of Newton's penetrating genius at work. Illuminating Newton's personal view of God and His Word, this manuscript advances our understanding of the theo-physical underpinnings of the Principia. With nearly all of Newton's manuscripts now permanently in institutions, the present manuscript is one of the most important remaining in private hands.

This originally appeared in auction in Sotheby’s July of 1936 as part of the Portsmouth Papers and sold to Parisian Bookseller Emmanuel Fabius.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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