Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Hooke Manuscript Goes Online

The Royal Society's folio volume of Robert Hooke's notes of the organization's early proceedings (1661-1691) is now available online. The manuscript, saved from auction last year by the intervention of the Wellcome Trust, has been carefully transcribed as part of the digitization process with the assistance of Hooke biographer Lisa Jardine and others.

"[Hooke's] minutes of the Royal Society describe in detail his numerous experiments and a dazzling range of inventions, from his work with a microscope, confirming the very first sighting of bacteria and sperm, to accounts of flying machines, the first pressure cooker and his dealings with Newton," a Telegraph report notes.

The Royal Society's introduction to the digital version has some more background about the folio: "Rivalries and disputes over inventions meant that Hooke did not trust the written account of Royal Society activities left by his Secretarial predecessor, Henry Oldenburg. Therefore the Folio begins with Hooke's corrective copy of early minutes, intended as a definitive record of the events described. In fact, Oldenburg's and Hooke's writings enrich one another.

As Secretary, Hooke drafted original descriptions of Society meetings from the late 1670s and these rough minutes form the second part of the Hooke Folio. Here, the Folio contains material that was lost or distorted in official accounts of the Royal Society's story, for example fuller versions of major scientific discoveries."

A non-broadband viewer and transcription of the Folio are here (not quite as flashy, but more usable, I find).