Christiaan Huygens 'under construction'
Started: March 17, 2008
Last Update: March 20, 2008

The Hunting of the Huygens' Molyneux

A tale of Searching and a little Serendipity.

It was in the last week before christmas 2007. I had added some references from Christiaan Huygens' correspondence about books he had received or did discuss that were also in the 1695 sales catalogue of his library. One of these books was William Molyneux' Dioptrica Nova from 1692 (Math 4o:154). In 1695 we see a copy of the Dioptrica Nova appear in the sale of Huygens library. Although we have no written evidence of this, it seems safe to assume that after April 1692 he obtained a copy of his own. We can also see a copy of the Dioptrica Nova appear in the sale of Constantijn Hugens jr in 1701(Libri Mathematici, &c 4o:688), that may or may have not been the same as the one mentioned in 1695 sale. And there the trail ends. Or so it seemed until december 2007.

I decided to check the EEBO digital collection of pre-1700 books published in England, for the presence of the Dioptrica Nova, to see what it was all about. Within a few minutes the title page appeared on my screen as part of a two page image. It was however the left part of the image, i.e. the page opposite of it, that made my jaw drop.
This page contained some lines in latin:
Nobilissimo Clarissimoque Viro
Christiano Hugenio Zulichemio Const. F.
Inter Principes Mathematicos Philosophosque
Hoc Observantiae Testimonium Mittit
Sui Nominis ac Eruditionis
Gulielmus Molyneux

This could only mean, that I was looking at Christiaan Huygens' copy of the Dioptrica Nova that Willaim Molyneux had send to him, at some date after April 1692. As Huygens had already read Steigerthal's copy and commented upon it to Fatio de Duillier, one could hardly expect a second reaction (in writing), after receiving this personalized copy from the author.

The EEBO record describing the Dioptrica Nova, mentioned that the digitized version represented a copy owned by the Harvard University Library.
Title: Dioptrica nova, A treatise of dioptricks in two parts : wherein the
various effects and appearances of spherick glasses, both convex and
concave, single and combined, in telescopes and microscopes, together with
their usefulness in many concerns of humane life, are explained / by
William Molyneux of Dublin, Esq. ...
Author: Molyneux, William, 1656-1698. 
Other authors: Halley, Edmond, 1656-1742. 
Imprint: London : Printed for Benj. Tooke, 1692. 
Date: 1692 
Bib name / number: Wing / M2405 
Arber's Term cat. / II 381 
Pages: [17], 301, [2] p., 42 folded leaves of plates : 
Notes: Reissued in 1709 with cancel t.p. 
"Appendix" (p. 295-301) by Edmond Halley. 
Errata: p. [1] at end. 
Advertisement: p. [2] at end. 
Reproduction of original in Harvard University Libraries. 
Marginal notes. 
Copy from: Harvard University Library 
UMI Collection / reel number: Wing / 392:01 
From the Harvard HOLLIS library catalogue system, I learned there were two locations among the various branches of the Harvard University Library where a copy of the Dioptrica Nova was to be found:
And then my transatlantic quest for the Molyneux copy was afoot
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