NEWTON, Sir Isaac (1642-1727, knighted 1705). "A Letter of Mr. Isaac Newton... Containing his New Theory about Light and Colors." In: Philosophical Transactions. Volumes 5-6, numbers 57-80, pages 3075-3087. London: John Martyn, 25 March 1670-19 February 1672.
2 volumes in one, 4o (213 x 159 mm). 11 engraved folding plates, woodcut diagrams, illustrations, head-pieces and initials, letterpress tables (plate for Transaction 57 torn at the gutter not affecting image). (Pages 2069 forward wormed in the gutter, only affecting text from page 3081.) Contemporary English speckled calf, red gilt lettering-piece on spine (extremities rubbed, head of spine scuffed, joints starting); quarter morocco gilt slipcase. Provenance: contemporary annotation recording dates of volumes front pastedown.
"I PROCURED ME A TRIANGULAR GLASS-PRISME, TO TRY THEREWITH THE CELEBRATED PHAENOMENA OF COLOURS" (Newton, p.3075)
FIRST EDITION OF NEWTON'S FIRST SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATION, one of his most important, leading to his great work on Opticks, 1704. In his initial experiment Newton describes how he darkened "my chamber and made a small hole in my window-shuts, to let in a convenient quantity of the Suns light, I placed my Prisme at his entrance, that it might be thereby refracted to the opposite wall. It was at first a very pleasing divertissement, to view the vivid and intense colours produced thereby; but after a while applying myself to consider them more circumspectly, I became surprised to see them in an oblong form; which, according to the received laws of Refraction, I expected should have been circular" (Newton, pp. 3075-3076).
"A second, inverted prism restored the refracted light into a white ray. He concluded that sunlight (or white light) was composed of a mixture of light of many colors, each having its own degree of refrangibility and that none could be converted into another" (Dibner). Babson 165; Dibner Heralds of Science 144; Grolier Science 79a; Wallis 231.