Catalogue description JAMES CLERK MAXWELL PAPERS

This record is held by Cambridge University Library: Department of Manuscripts and University Archives

Details of ADD.MS7655
Reference: ADD.MS7655



I. Correspondence between Maxwell and Tait


(a) Tait (and Kelvin) to Maxwell 3


(b) Maxwell to Tait 5


II. Correspondence between Maxwell and writers other than Tait 8


III. Miscellaneous letters 15


(a) Modern copies of correspondence 15


(b) Letters regarding Maxwelliana 16


(c) Letters to Lord Rayleigh etc 17


(d) Various items before or after Maxwell's lifetime 17


BOX 2 18


IV. Final drafts of books 18


BOX 3 19


V. Notes and Papers, arranged by subject 19


(a) Astronomy 19


(b) Colour and Optics 19


(c) Electricity and Magnetism 20


(d) Geometry 22


BOX 4 24


(e) Mechanics and Dynamics 24


(f) Molecular Physics and Gases 24


(g) Properties of matter 25


(h) General Physics 26


BOX 5 27


(i) Miscellaneous 27


(j) Laboratory Administration 27


(k) Examinations 27


BOX 6 29


(l) Literary 29


(m) Undergraduate Lecture Notebooks


(n) Experimental Notebooks


When received here, the Maxwell papers were mainly in a series of envelopes, in some confusion, and considerable work has been needed to arrange them on a systematic basis. No arrangement can be entirely satisfactory since much of the material is fragmentary and not always easy to date, and its relevance sometimes not obvious. The main body of the papers (section V) has been grouped under subject headings and arranged so far as possible chronologically under each heading. As to subject matter, wherever Maxwell himself gave a title to an item, this is quoted in inverted commas; failing this, the description is given by the cataloguer. As to dates, a precise date is normally quoted only if it occurs within the item. But as a good deal of the material can be linked to published work, reference to Maxwell's collected Scientific Papers* (SP) and the much more recent Scientific Letters and Papers* (SLP) will in such cases provide a terminus ad quem for drafts or notes. In other cases, what is written on the back of the sheet may offer a terminus a quo, since Maxwell often used the back of answers to Cambridge examination papers, datable from the candidate's name, or of his own earlier articles, for drafts of new work.


Most of the work on this collection was done in 1964-67, but thereafter pressure of other duties caused it to be laid aside, and the final stages have only been completed in the past twelve months. The cataloguer must apologise for any insufficiencies due to this and to his own lack of knowledge of the subject matter, and will welcome corrections.


*The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell. Ed.W.D. Niven, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1890)


The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell M. Harman, Vol.I 1846-62 (Cambridge, 1990) - numbers 1 to 196 - and Vol.II 1862-73 (Cambridge, 1995) - numbers 197 to 490.

Related material:

See also Add. MS8375 for correspondence of Maxwell with G. Chrystal and a few other items in Maxwell's hand.

Held by: Cambridge University Library: Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Maxwell, James Clerk, 1831-1871, scientist

Physical description: 23 series
Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) were transferred to Cambridge University Library from the Cavendish Laboratory in 1964

Custodial history:

The papers had been bequeathed to the Laboratory, along with his scientific books, by Maxwell's widow who died in 1886 (A History of the Cavendish Laboratory 1871-1910 (London, 1910), p.85; L. Bragg, 'The Cavendish Laboratory Archives', Nature 169 (1952), p.684. Derek Price (see below, section II), who said they were presented by Mrs Maxwell in 1879, was evidently misinformed.) A few additions were subsequently made from various sources, and since 1964 some further Maxwell items found in sorting the papers of G.G. Stokes in the University Library, and a notebook and some photographs formerly part of Add. MS 2766(4), have been incorporated in the collection. (Both groups were probably strays from the main body of Maxwell papers, having doubtless been removed by Sir Joseph Larmor, through whom both the Stokes MSS and Add.MS2766(4) reached the Library.)

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