Mathematical notes of Robert Payne

Scope and Content

This series largely comprises the notes of Robert Payne on mathematical and scientific subjects. It includes Payne's notes on other authors' works with page references as well as his own problems in geometry, optics, proportion, geometry of the circle, duplication of the cube and chronology. It includes notes on weights, coins and astronomy. There are some notes of Payne's on works by Hobbes (HS/C/3/5 and HS/C/4/2) which show the connection between the two and how Hobbes relied on Payne to improve his work.

Apart from the two items listed above and HS/C/2/1, HS/C/7/10, HS/C/7/11 which are in Hobbes's hand and HS/C/1/6 which is a scribal manuscript probably acquired by Hobbes, all other items in this collection are in Robert Payne's hand and represent a sizeable collection of primary source material left by Payne illuminating his interests, influences and exposure to other scholars as well as his way of working and note-taking in the field of mathematics and physics.

For a long period, Payne's notes were assumed by scholars to be the work of Hobbes on account of the similarity in hand between Hobbes and Payne. However, when Hobbes scholar K. Schuhmann consulted some of this material in the 1990s he noted to Peter Day, then keeper of Chatsworth Collections, that much of HS/C/7 was not like any of Hobbes' published works. Schuhmann believed the notes not to be in Hobbes's or Charles Cavendish's handwriting. And indeed later Noel Malcolm, identified the notes in this series as Robert Payne's and laid out the reasonings for this in a chapter of "Aspect of Hobbes" (2002, pp. 80-145).


The current arrangement is based on the listing in the 1977 RCHM report which largely arranges these papers according to subject matter. The series is recorded in the 1977 RCHM report as: "Mathematical notes and fragments by Hobbes. These are arranged as far as possible according to their subject", and was likely arranged in its current form by 1936.

Custodial History

These manuscripts were likely extant in the archive on Hobbes's death in 1679. They probably came into Hobbes' possession after Payne's death in 1651. Noel Malcolm suggests Payne's sister (his executor) may have sent the papers belonging to Payne to Hobbes, after considering the close relationship between the two men.

In the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts third report (1872) the entry on p. 43 lists these items as: ''two bundles of Mathematical papers'. The arrangement of them predominently by subject was possibly carried out by Shillinglaw in his 1936 arrangement and listing of the collection, under the assumption that they were all the work of Hobbes.

Related Material

HS/B/2, HS/B/3, HS/B/5, HS/E/1, HS/E2 and HS/E/5 are all notes written by Robert Payne and likely arranged in other series according to subject matter and the past assumption that all Payne's notes were the work of Hobbes.


For discussion on the attribution of these notes to Robert Payne see: Malcolm, Noel, 'Robert Payne, the Hobbes Manuscripts, and the 'Short Tract', in "Aspects of Hobbes", (Oxford University Press) 2002, pp.80-145.