Reconstruction of Newton's "Church History complete"
Dr. Marc Adam Kolakowski, University of Geneva, Switzerland
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Towards a Reconstruction of Newton's "Church History complete": New Methods, New Results?
The Newton Watermark Project Series - third lecture:
The presence of a “Church History complete” among the manuscripts left by Isaac Newton (1642-1727) is first mentioned by his niece Catherine Conduitt, in 1737. Catherine, who inherited Newton’s papers, wanted to ensure that the collection of theological works gathered under that title would not remain unpublished, so that the “labour and sincere search of so good a Christian and so great a Genius may not be lost” (Codicil to her will, New College Library, Oxford, MS 361/4, fol. 139). Despite her express appointment of a competent editor, whose numerous interventions are still evident throughout the work, this text was never made available to the public.
Why did such an important editorial project fail? Could the religious ideas expressed by Newton in these pages explain why they remained in manuscript form for three centuries? Was this treatise of ecclesiastical history ever fit for publication?
Today, the material related to Newton’s “Church History complete” is preserved in two voluminous sets of autograph manuscripts. One, mainly composed of rough drafts and elaborations, is held by the National Library of Israel under the shelf mark "Yahuda MS 15" (193 fols). The other, more perfect and consistent, is to be found at the library of the Fondation Martin Bodmer, in Switzerland, under the title "Of the Church" (456 fols). Relying on these two collections, the upcoming lecture will present the first results of a new study of this work and its editorial history, based on digital approaches to the capture and analysis of watermarks. From there, we will explore Newton’s critical account of early Christianism and address some of its most controversial aspects.
Marc Adam Kolakowski completed a PhD in History of Religions at the University of Lausanne in 2020. His dissertation, soon to be published by Droz Editions in Geneva, is the first monograph devoted to Johann Wilhelm Stucki (1542-1607), a scholarly figure and theologian from the late Renaissance. In 2021, he was invited curator at the Fondation Jan Michalski, where he presented an exhibition on the transmission of Stefan Zweig’s collection of literary manuscripts to the Swiss bibliophile Martin Bodmer (1899-1971). His current postdoctoral research about Newton’s Church history, led in close collaboration with the Newton Watermark Project, is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Since October 2022, he is a visiting Senior Research Associate at Peterhouse, University of Cambridge.
Sunday, February 12, 8 pm Israel /7 pm CET /6 pm UK /1 pm EST
Sunday February 12th 21 Shevat 08:00 - 09:15
Dr. Marc Kolakowski, University of Geneva, Switzerland
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Backlit picture of Fondation Martin Bodmer, Bodmer MS "Of the Church", fols. 29-30; photo by: Bodmer Lab/Naomi Wenge