Reference numberCLP
TitleClassified papers of the Royal Society
DescriptionScientific and other papers sent to the Royal Society, presented at meetings of Fellows, or commissioned by the Society.

Organised according to a simplified version of the classification by subject area devised by John Lowthorp for his abridgment of the 'Philosophical Transactions'. This arrangement was completed in 1741 by Thomas Birch.

Some of the papers pre-date the grant of the First Charter to the Society on 15 July 1662. The Committee of Trades seems to have been associated with the earlier meetings of those philosophers who subsequently became Fellows, and produced a number of practical papers, some of which were written in 1639 and which are mostly found in Volume 3(i). There are still earlier documents, mostly in Volume 25, which may have been included in the gift, in 1667, of the Arundel Library.

The majority of the papers in these volumes are manuscript, but a few printed documents occur throughout the series.
Extent31 volumes containing 2,507 papers
Physical descriptionBound volumes
ArrangementThe classification is a simplified form of the 'Philosophical Transactions' abridgment by John Lowthorp which is based on subject areas. This arrangement was completed in 1741 by Thomas Birch. The volumes are ordered as follows:
1. Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry
2. Surveying, Optics, Perspective, Sculpture, Painting, Music, Mechanics
3. (Volumes i and ii) Mechanics, Trades
4. (Volumes i and ii) Physiology, Meteorology, Pneumatics
5. Weather
6. Staticks, Hydrostaticks, Hydraulics, Hydrology
7. (Volumes i and ii) Architecture, Ship-building, Geography, Navigation, Voyages, Travel
8. (Volume i and ii) Astronomy
9. (Volume i and ii) Mineralogy, Magnetics
10. (Volume i, ii and iii) Botany, Agriculture All three parts bound into one volume.
11. (Volume i and ii) Pharmacy, Chemistry
12. (Volume i and ii) Anatomy, Surgery
13. Monsters, Longevity
14. (Volumes i and ii) Physic
15. (Volumes i and ii) Zoology
16. Grammar, Chronology, History, Antiquities
17. Miscellaneous
18. (Volumes i and ii) Papin, Hawksbee (sic), Desaguliers Papers
19. Questions and Answers
20. Hooke Papers
21. Halley Papers
22. (Volume i and ii) Accounts of Books
23. (Volume i and ii) Inoculations
24. Collins, Oldenbourg, Hooke
25. Political Trade
Towards the end of the scheme the classification diverges from its model. Although the majority of volumes are classified by subject, there are several which contain collections by individual scientists. There is a chronological run in each volume of the total number of papers.
Digital imagesView item on Science in the Making
Finding aidsList of contents in each volume giving author, title, date and extent of papers - compiled by A H Church (see volume 22i for his note dated 27 February 1907). There is also a separate bound index which replicates the information on the individual indexes, this can be found shelved with the volumes of papers.

The list of contents transcribed with revisions by AH Church, and prefaced by further corrections for Church's printed catalogue 'The Royal Society: some account of the Classified Papers in the Archives..' (Oxford 1907). The latter contains a short introduction, a list of subjects covered by the volumes and an index of authors.

In addition, the guide compiled to accompany the University Publications of America microfilm of the Early Letters and Classified Papers, contains an index to the collection adapted from Church's '...account of the Classified Papers in the Archives' (Oxford 1907).

A chronological list of the papers from 1660 is provided in MS/703-4
Access statusOpen
Access conditionsPhotocopying forbidden
Related materialThe Classified Papers form a complementary series to the Early Letters, both of which were superseded by the Letters and Papers. Many of these items, referred to as the 'Guard Books', are duplicated in the Register Book of the Society.

A chronological list of the papers from 1660 is provided by MS/703-4

Classified papers of the Royal Society

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    Collection highlights

    Browse the records of some of our collections, which cover all branches of science and date from the 12th century onwards. These include the published works of Fellows of the Royal Society, personal papers of eminent scientists, letters and manuscripts sent to the Society or presented at meetings, and administrative records documenting the Society's activities since our foundation in 1660.

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