Note to RSS readers: This is not about Abu Hamza.
Found: a very old and valuable manuscript from the dawn of modern science. Wanted: a ‘white knight’ with lots of cash to secure it for the nation.
That’s the nub of the gist, anyway. The minutes of the Royal Society from 1661-1682 have been rediscovered in a private Hampshire home during an evaluation of the owner’s antiques. ‘I thought it must be too good to be true’, said the evaluator, who was only shown the manuscript as an afterthought.
The first page I saw was headed: 'President Sir Christopher Wren in the chair' and I knew I was looking at the vanished minutes of the Royal Society.
The scribe of those minutes was none other than Dr Robert Hooke, the great scientist and architect. Hooke designed hundreds of experiments for the Royal Society, many of which led to practical applications such as watch springs and microscopes. He also worked closely with Christopher Wren on the designs of St Paul’s and the Monument.
(Well done, by the way, to the Guardian for not surrounding his name with the usual ‘forgotten genius’ and ‘unsung hero’ tags. He’s far from unsung, having been the subject of two recent biographies, as well as the excellent ‘Robert Hooke and the Rebuilding of London’.)
The fear now is that the rediscovered manuscript will return to private hands when it goes up for auction in March. The Royal Society would love to have the long-lost notes returned, but with bids expected to reach over £1 million, they just don’t have the kitty. As one biographer, Lisa Jardine, points out:
It would be a tragedy if it was to go elsewhere. This is the last bit of the jigsaw for the society’s archive, which is otherwise intact from 1660.
Can they not just photocopy it or something?