On 13 and 14 July 1936, a huge amount of private papers of Isaac Newton belonging to Viscount Lymington were auctioned at Sotheby’s in London. The auction was not a big success: the entire collection only raised £9,000 (this would be c. £640,000 today according to this calculator). Still, the auction drew the attention of one famous man – the economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), who ended up buying many of the papers. There were two main subjects addressed by Newton’s private papers: alchemy and theology. Keynes was mainly interested in the alchemical papers, while a Jewish scholar and collector, Abraham Yahuda, bought most of the theological ones.
What is Renaissance magic? What connects the seemingly very different enterprises of Marsilio Ficino (De vita libri tres), Cornelius Agrippa, Giordano Bruno (De vinculis), Giovan Battista della Porta (Magia naturalis) and Francis Bacon? In what sense their projects of a natural magic are about the same thing?