Interactive Data Atlas > Royal Society
About the Project
The minutes are records of the Society’s science in their most original form, dating from the presidency of Samuel Pepys and the publication of the Principia Mathematica to the early years of Newton’s time. They contain summaries of Royal Society meetings discussing experiments, publications and natural curiosities. Through the attendance lists, the elections to the Fellowship and the distribution of tasks, you can also discover how the Society functioned in its second quarter-century.
The bulk of the manuscripts appear to have been compiled by, or on behalf of, Hans Sloane, who served as Secretary of the Royal Society from 1693 to 1713, and was later President (1727-1741). We know this from the inscriptions on the spines of the volumes, and we have identified various passages in Sloane’s hand as well as the handwriting of Richard Waller and Thomas Gale, both of whom served as Secretary during the period.
Royal Society has a turn the pages for all the minutes of the Royal Society while Sloane was Secretary – fully described and links are at https://royalsociety.org/blog/2019/01/meeting-sloane/
Type of collection, contemporary or historic
This is a digitised collection of a historic resource (ie the draft minutes of the Royal Society)
Information on digitisation
The draft minutes have been imaged and digitised by the Royal Society. They are available as Turning the Pages digital artifact which allow users to browse through the volumes, . Users can search, navigate by date of meeting, display a short introduction to the project, and see a transcription of the text next to the page. The transcription has errors and preserves the original spelling, but it enables users to discover the range of subjects discussed.
Material included in the original collection
They contain summaries of Royal Society meetings discussing experiments, publications and natural curiosities. The digitised draft minute books are the raw material for the Journal Books and, as such, contain the unmediated notes of Fellows who took part in the meetings. As a result, the dates of meetings are not always in the right order, passages have been crossed out, marginal notes added, and a few contain mathematical notation completely unrelated to the contents. The survival of such documents is rare and precious, and they are key for historians of science who want to retrace how and when various scientific topics were discussed at the Royal Society.
Metadata and formats
The transcription is available to download as XML, in a format which recreates the structure of the minute books. For example, using the XML, one can observe:
- As President, Newton assiduously turned up to meetings.
- Vice-President John Hoskins chaired the vast majority in 1690-1695 in lieu of Sir Robert Southwell PRS (who was perhaps distracted by his concurrent role as Secretary of State for Ireland).
The digitised manuscripts are available online from the Royal Society web site linked below. The XML version of the draft minutes is also available and downloadable from the same site (eg https://ttp.royalsociety.org/ttp_feb2014/bookdata//books/37717c7d-d550-49c4-ae2c-9e998391ffe8/media/MS_575.xml)
Usage and citation
The imaged minutes are copyrighted to the Royal Society. Further clarification as to the copyright state of the XML versions of the minutes.
Louisiane Ferlier is the key person to contact. Please feel free to contact her directly, or otherwise contact us to bring you in touch.