A 17th-century manuscript written by Sir Isaac Newton that was held in a private collection for decades is being placed online, offering a glimpse into his alchemical process.
The rediscovered document is Newton’s handwritten copy of a manuscript by alchemist George Starkey detailing the preparation of “sophick mercury,” viewed as an essential element in producing the so-called “philosopher’s stone” for turning base metals into gold.
Newton copied the recipe from a text by Harvard-educated alchemist George Starkey. Experts said this occurred long before Starkey printed his take on the process.
Here comes the interesting part: alchemists like Starkey typically used cryptic language to obscure their work, a kind of thinking that suggested that only those who are worthy would comprehend. Such is the case for the sophick mercury recipe.