Skip to main content

Quarto A, c1680-c1708

 Series — Box: Dk.1.2
Identifier: Coll-33/Quarto A

Scope and Contents

The papers of David Gregory in Quarto A consist of:
  1. 107 manuscript papers and an index, relating to: theoretical physics, including optics, especially treatises on refraction and colour, on mechanics, specifically on velocity, gravitation, centrifugal and centripetal force, and the movement of solids through fluid, and an occasional thought on magnetic attraction. Applied physics, considering ships, tides, and catapults, though more often encompassing scientific instrumentation, chiefly microscopes, compound 'astroscopes', an 'horologium' for time and date, and a drawing machine for defined curves. Astronomy, usually orbital calculations based on the solar period and on planetary, lunar, and solar eclipses; some discussion of a contemporary problem known as the Parallax Measurement. Pure mathematics, concerning algebra and the 'abrumpent' mathematical series, and geometry, considering quadratures and cycloids, and advanced problems in parabolas and curves of changing slope, like the famous catenary problem; his maths move through trigonometry, especially tangents and logarithms, and into the domain of 'fluxions', or Newtonian proto-calculus. Worksheets in economics, concerning the Scottish Mint and how to calculate the customs and excise "Equivalent" compensatory payment. Curiosities, such as medical jottings in anatomy and human senescence, captioned line drawings of Roman inscriptions around Scotland, questions to a travelled colleague about Chinese science, a table of descendants of James V of Scotland and I of England, an astrological mortality test concerning Louis XIV, thoughts on the firing chambers in french mortars, and a copy of his royal charter to supervise the Mint.


  • c1680-c1708


Physical Description


Physical Description

genreform: manuscripts

Conditions Governing Access

Approval required.

Biographical / Historical

David Gregory appears to have indexed Quarto A in Oxford in late 1699 or early 1700, along with Folio B, and Folio C, when he was gradually completing his magnum opus, the Astronomiae. His editorial rationale for these apparently random collections is obscure, save that the quarto pages probably went together simply because they were small. The titles represent a scattering of mathematical thought-pieces (usually), book lists and notes of conversations with colleagues (very often), and curiosities (occasionally), ranging in the case of Quarto A from discussions of charcoal in English furnaces to notes on sermons and Scripture. Subsequent additions to the collections, not listed in the indices, are even more varied. Their dates span his entire professional life. Because paleographic evidence suggests that these pages were not stored carefully, Gregory may have meant them to be more a stack of back files than an orderly documentary record of anything. Numerous documents on the index have migrated to other caches of Gregory papers or have disappeared completely.


From the Fonds: 0.5 metre

Physical Description


Physical Description

genreform: manuscripts

Processing Information

Duncan Fisher13 December 2001

Repository Details

Part of the Edinburgh University Library Special Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379