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Newton’s works in the Worth Library

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Newton’s works in the Worth Library

‘The Principia is a book dominated by two chief theories: that of central forces, and that of the resistance of mediums to motion [through them], both theories being almost completely new and treated with all the author’s sublime mastery of geometry. It is impossible to touch on either of these topics without encountering Newton and either repeating him or following him…’

Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle’s Eloge [cited in Rupert Hall, 1999).


Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica (London, 1726), p.1.

It is striking that Edward Worth collected not one but two copies of each of Newton’s major works: a second and third edition of his Principia; the first English and Latin editions of his Opticks, a first edition of his Arithmetica universalis as well as a later 1732 Dutch edition, and, finally, the posthumous publication of his Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms amended, which was published in 1728, a year after Newton’s death. Worth’s commitment to Newtonian science is clearly demonstrated not only in his fascination for these works but also in the various commentaries on them he amassed, commentaries which sought to explain Newton’s findings in the Principia and replicate his experiments in the Opticks. As the ‘Reading Newton’ section of this website demonstrates, Worth collected the vast majority of the major texts by the leading Newtonian commentators of his day. His interest went beyond even this: it seems possible that a set of Spanish plays by Calderon may have been purchased as much because they had been owned by Newton’s biographer and nephew-in-law, John Conduitt, as for their subject matter. Equally, Worth, a collector who rarely annotated his books made an exception in his prized copy of the 1726 edition of the Principia, marking the date of Newton’s death. Worth’s adherence to the Newtonian cause owed much to his interest in the Royal Society. That he was committed to all areas of scientific investigation is apparent in his wonderful collection of books on natural philosophy in the early modern period. These cover all areas of scientific investigation but it clear that the presiding philosophical approach was that of a staunch Newtonian. By the time of his death in 1727 Newton was officially acknowledged as the foremost English scientist of his age, a fact graphically outlined in the sumptuous funeral arrangements that were listed at the time. That Worth concurred with this estimation is clearly visible in the Worth Library today.

Sir Isaac’s Funeral, from the Gazette of Tuesday 4th April, 1727.

‘On the 28th past, the corpse of Sir Isaac Newton lay in state in the Jerusalem Chamber, and was buried from thence in Westminster Abbey, near the entry into the choir. The pall was supported by the Lord High Chancellor, the Dukes of Montrose and Roxborough, and the Earls of Pembroke, Sussex, and Macclesfield, being Fellows of the Royal Society. The Hon. Sir Michael Newton, Knight of the Bath, was chief mourner, and was followed by some other relations, and several eminent persons, intimately acquainted with the deceased. The office was performed by the Bishop of Rochester, attended by the prebend and choir.’


Hall, A. Rupert (1999), Isaac Newton. Eighteenth-Century Perspectives (Oxford).

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