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Newton the Alchemist$
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William Newman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691174877

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691174877.001.0001

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Delusions of a Disordered Mind?

(p.396) Eighteen Praxis
Newton the Alchemist

William R. Newman

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on Newton's Praxis, which has been described as his most important alchemical text. A preliminary reading of the text quickly leads one to sympathize with Westfall's claim that it reflects a disordered state of mind. It is not easy, at least initially, to make out the subjects described allusively in each of the first four chapters. Their disjointed snippets and quotations represent Newton's florilegium style at its densest and least approachable. But this is not the product of madness, however temporary. Rather, it is Newton's way of sifting through his sources and reassembling the disparate parts of a great puzzle distributed piecemeal among the diverse sons of art. The very materials that figured in Newton's laboratory notebooks, in his interpretations of Snyders (especially Keynes 58), and in his instructions to Fatio can be found in Praxis.

Keywords:   Isaac Newton, Praxis, alchemy, alchemical text, florilegium style, laboratory notebooks

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