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Manuscript notebook of John Wickins (d. 1719), friend, collaborator, and amanuensis of Isaac Newton, containing English and Latin works of theology and letters attributed to Newton, late seventeenth century

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.10345

Content Description

Contents: fol. i recto, ownership inscription of J. Wickins Trin: Coll Cant (possibly not in the hand of John Wickins), pasted to this leaf is a nineteenth-century note on letter paper (written after 1855, since it refers to Brewster's Memoirs of... Sir Isaac Newton, citing earlier sources, including the account by James Wickins in The Gentleman's Magazine (1802), p. 316, of a flagon and other items from Newton's chambers in Trinity); fol. ii recto, a further note in a nineteenth-century hand [that of Edmund Hope Verney] based on Brewster's account of what is now King's College, MS Keynes 137: a letter to Robert Smith from Nicholas Wickins (from Stoke Edith, 16 January 1728), giving an account of some of the contents of 'a small book... among my Father's papers', here identified as this volume; fol. ii verso, a further note in an eighteenth-century hand (not that of either John or Nicholas Wickins), identifying the text on the following pages as being a common-place (i.e. a sermon-like exercise, preached in the College chapel) by Isaac Newton; fols 1-48, [Common-place on Romans 14.23, 2 parts, fols 1-15 and 16-45, with accompanying notes, fols 45-48, incomplete at end]; written in a single hand, identical with that of CUL MS Add. 3970, fols 460-6, 549-67 (known to be the hand of John Wickins); fols 49-52 recto, blank; fol. 52 verso, Latin topics for Newton's Divinity Act (8 February 1677) and a prayer, presumably to be said then. Written in the same hand as fols 1-48; fols 53-97, Latin response to the first of the topics at Newton's Divinity Act ('The morality of human actions does not preclude God's certain foreknowledge that they will come to pass.'). Written in the same hand as fols 1-48, 52v. A largely fair copy but with some deletions; fols 98-137, blank; fols 138-145, copies of three letters from Newton to John Wickins (his chamber-fellow at Trinity), when the latter was at Monmouth. The first undated, but 1678; the second dated 19 July 1677; the third dated 19 August 1682. Both the second and the third accompanied by theological book lists (fols 140v and 145r). The letters but not the lists published by W.R. Wilson in The Athenaeum, 2751 (17 July 1880), 81-2 . Written in the same hand as fols 1-48, 52v-137r; fols 145-184: blank.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1677-1682
  • Other: 1677-1880



1 volume(s) (1 volume )

Language of Materials


Custodial History

The provenance of the notebook, which indeed appears to be written in the hand of John Wickins, may be established as follows: by descent on his death to his son, Nicholas (c. 1689–1773), who succeeded his father as rector of Stoke Edith and inherited half of his library; probably inherited by his son, Thomas Wickins (c. 1729–1787); thence to his son, also Thomas Wickins (1767–1842); probably bequeathed to Sir John Hope Williams (1794–1859), builder in 1849 of Plas Rhianfa (Rhianva), by descent to his daughter, Margaret Maria Hay Williams (1844–1930), who married, in 1868, Edmund Hope Verney (1838–1910), whose hand is found on a piece of modern paper which is pasted into the front of the notebook.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased by the Cambridge University Library at auction from Bonhams in Knightsbridge, London, on 31 March 2021 (lot 73).

Physical Description

Notebook, consisting of 186 leaves (one uncut) of uniform paper (whose watermark is cropped or obscured but may possibly be a variant of the ‘posthorn’ watermark found often in paper used in late seventeenth-century England, including by Newton). Bound in contemporary black morocco with gilt-tooling to boards, edges, and spine (the same tool is used at the corners of the panel on the boards and twice in each of five compartments to the spine); it has contemporary marbled endleaves and gilt edges. Its dimensions are 14.8 x 9.5 x 3 cm (measured across the binding). It corresponds to the description that Nicholas Wickins gave in 1728 of ‘a small Book I find amongst my Fathers papers… transcribing three short Lettrs he received from [Newton]… ye originals of those three Lettrs is lost…’


Its dimensions are 14.8 x 9.5 x 3 cm (measured across the binding).

Scott Mandelbrote
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom