When Cambridge University decided it had no use for the great physicist’s extensive non-scientific papers, it handed them over to Sotheby’s auction house. But on the day they were auctioned, in 1936, almost nobody showed up. Zachary Solomon writes:
[The very same day], down the street, Christie’s was holding an auction of their own for Impressionist art. In the end, only two people came for Newton’s papers. One of them happened to be the noted economist John Maynard Keynes. The other: a Jewish expert on Middle Eastern affairs named Abraham Shalom Yahuda. The two split the pot: Keynes took the alchemy writings, Yahuda the theology.
When Yahuda died in 1951, his collection transferred to the National Library of Israel. And what a collection indeed: featured among Newton’s papers are works on mysticism, exegeses, projections for the end of days (mark 2060 on your calendar), maps, and illustrations. The papers show his belief that secret knowledge was contained in talmudic descriptions of the Temple.
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