There is even some mystery surrounding the Principia’s journey that eventually landed the book in Swem’s Special Collections.
In 1869, Rev. Dr. Thomas S. Savage donated the work to William & Mary. How did it fall into Rev. Savage’s possession and why did he donate it to the College? Historian Nicholas Popper suggests that the answers to those questions could help solve the greater mystery that lies in the margins of the book.
“Savage’s papers are at UNC Chapel Hill and there are a lot of them, so a scholar would need a lot of time to sift through voluminous records. Perhaps there is some note in the collection or a clue leading to others who might have crossed paths with someone who might know how Savage came to donate the work to W&M.”
The donor of the papers to the University of North Carolina in 1974 was a portrait artist named Thomas Casilear Cole (1886-1976). He was Rev. Savage’s great nephew.