As an attention-grabbing introduction to the launch of Cambridge Digital Library, it’s hard to beat the selection of Sir Isaac Newton’s works now available for all to view. The works include Newton’s own annotated first edition copy of his 1,000-page book Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica (1687), usually referred to as the Principia, which would be the basis for the second edition. Also his college notebooks, his notes on optics, and his so-called ‘Waste Book’ (a very large notebook Newton inherited from his stepfather and filled with notes and calculations). The books were photographed, page by page, at high resolution during the summer of 2011 at the rate of about 200 pages per day. Access to these digitized pages for viewing and downloading is free and open to everyone through a web browser. Images made available for download are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-NC 3.0).
This first batch of Newton’s papers comprises over 4,000 pages; the intention is to add more pages until almost all the University Library’s Newton material is available to view online. This new Cambridge project makes use of transcriptions of Newton’s hand-written text produced by the Newton Project run by the University of Sussex. Thus, where the text is hand-written, detailed enlargements of Newton’s original can be examined alongside an easier to read typescript version.
Eventually, the Cambridge Digital Library will become a portal to a large number of digitized collections ‘in the realms of science and faith’ held by the University Library. Wherever possible, and where copyright and licensing permits, access to the material will be free to everyone. Future works to be digitized will include the papers of Charles Darwin and of the Board of Longitude.