The Newton Manuscript

This manuscript (Cambridge University Library, with the reference MSS. Add. 4005 Part 12) was copied by Sir Isaac Newton in the early 17th century. While it certainly contains copied sections from at least two earlier works, is by no means a direct copy; few parts can be directly sourced, like the the section on masts and yards taken "verbatim" from the Scott Manuscript (as noted by Richard Barker).

The Newton Manuscript consists of 66 propositions, tables for varying ships parts based on the length of keel and breadth, dimensions and rules for shipbuilding and proportions for masts, yards and spars.

The propositions include dimensions and general instructive statements or relationships that were used to construct a ship.

John Coates dated the Scott Manuscript to between 1590 and 1605. Richard Barker later re-defended the date slightly, to focus on the later part of this estimate. A combination of both Coates and Barker's lines of evidence in addition to comparisons of contemporary works lead this researcher to agree with the emphasis on a later date, around 1605.

In the links below contain the following:
-a paper entitled A Translation and Interpretation of the Newton Manuscript; With notes on the Scott Manuscript.
-each proposition reduced to a simple mathematical formula (when applicable).
-a terminology key. Odd, unfamiliar or outdated terms and phrases from the Manuscript paired with their modern equivalent.



Translation into English



  Barker, Richard "A Manuscript on Shipbuilding, circa 1600, copied by Newton" Mariner's Mirror (1994) 80.1:16-29.

Coates, John "The Authorship of a Manuscript on Shipbuilding c 1600-1620" Mariner's Mirror (1981) 67:285-6.

Citation Information:

Pearce Paul Creasman
2004, Ship Treatises and Books, World Wide Web, URL,,

Nautical Archaeology Program, Texas A&M University