Isaac Newton’s Library

What did Isaac Newton do for entertainment? Question arises because of my anecdotal observation that the “smart people” of today, though paying homage to it, don’t seem particularly interested in high culture. (Interested in Star Trek, genre fiction, folk music, not in opera or poetry.) And so the question becomes — thinking here of smart people as being people with an aptitude for advanced math or logic — did smart people ever like high culture. What for example did Isaac Newton enjoy?

Glancing over a catalogue of his library, I’m reminded that for many people, then and today, their first and primary exposure to literary matters is through religion, but I didn’t see any indication of what he might have read during his leisure time. Perhaps it is a mistake to identify what I am calling “smart people” with what I would call “cultured people” (and perhaps “cultured people” are simply “rich people”, though I don’t have anecdotal data on that. Also, perhaps high culture is simply passed, and in a Democratic age, the most cultured are those who have looked most deeply into popular culture — Rock critics.)

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