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(Click on image to enlarge.)
click here to enlarge "1609 - 1709"
oil on panel 30 x 24 inches
Private collection


This composition, with a botanical theme inspired by Newton’s apple and John Ray’s classification of plants, rests upon two rows of drawers from a pharmaceutical cabinet (1704) belonging to Giovanni Francesco Vigani of Verona, now situated in the Master’s Lodge at Queens’. The cabinet contains over 700 samples of seeds, resins, fossils, barks, pigments, metals, roots, oils, balsams and salts. Vigani began to teach the new science of Chemistry in Cambridge in 1683, and in 1702 he was elected to the first Chair of Chemistry.

Upon the drawers we find Newton’s notebook, lock of hair and his walking stick (Wren Library, Trinity). The lock of hair probably stems from a larger gathering that passed into the hands of the Earls of Portsmouth through Newton's niece. Newton originally used the notebook as a Latin exercise book when he was at school in Grantham, but later used it to record his expenses while a Trinity undergraduate [R.4.48c]. The walking stick was believed to have belonged to Newton, and remained in his family until it was given to G. W. Lydekker, who gave it in turn to Trinity in 1879.

The two small leaning books behind Newton’s notebook are John Ray’s Catalogus plantarum circa Cantabrigium nascentium, 1660 (Wren Library, Trinity College), which list 558 species of plant and crops growing in the region,. Ray’s great work was the Historia Plantarum describing 6100 species, which was published in two volumes in 1686-88.

To the left we find a Shakespeare First Folio, entitled "Mr William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. Published according to the True Originall Copies" published in 1623 in London by Isaac Jaggard and Edward Blunt. This volume forms part of the Capell collection (Capell A3, Wren Library, Trinity).

Above is an illustration taken from Harvey’s Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus (Anatomical Essays on the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals) (1628). The experiment depicted illustrated the function of the valves in veins and arteries as only allowing blood to flow in one direction. Previous to Harvey’s explanation of the heart’s function as a pump, it was generally accepted that blood flowed freely around the body, moved along by a squeezing action of the veins and arteries.

To the right we find a carved wooden box containing an encrusted skull, c. 3,600 years old, given to Sidney Sussex College by Captain Stevens of Rotherhithe in 1627. It is of importance in the history of palaeontology, being the first fossilised human skull to reach an English collection.

Top centre we have the engraved title page of the first edition of the Authorised Version of the Bible, commonly known as the King James Bible (title page engraved by Cornelis Bol, printed in London by Robert Barker, 1611).

To the right we find the Emmanuel College admission register 1584-1713. The left-hand page bears the signature of John Harvard, who was admitted to Emmanuel on 19 December 1627, and went on to found Harvard University.

Below the register is Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, printed at London in 1687. This particular volume is from Newton's own library and includes his own annotations (NQ.16.200, Wren Library, Trinity).

Below this is a 6-draw refracting telescope, by John Yarwell, late 17th century (Wh.0876, Whipple Museum). The refracting telescope uses a lens to focus the observed image. Its exact origin is disputed, but it first appeared among Dutch spectacle makers at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

The third book underneath the telescope is one volume of A new system, or, an analysis of ancient mythology by Jacob Bryant, published from 1774 to 1776 (Y.5.1-3, Wren Library, Trinity).
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