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    Sale 2013

    Important Scientific Books: The Richard Green Library

    17 June 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 265

    NEWTON, Sir Isaac. Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. Edited by Edmond Halley (1656-1743). London: Joseph Streater for the Royal Society [at the expense of Edmond Halley], to be sold by various booksellers, 1687.

    Price Realised  

    NEWTON, Sir Isaac. Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. Edited by Edmond Halley (1656-1743). London: Joseph Streater for the Royal Society [at the expense of Edmond Halley], to be sold by various booksellers, 1687.

    Median 4o (235 x 183 mm). Folding engraved plate of cometary orbit inserted before B1; woodcut and typographical diagrams. (Title-page very lightly soiled, M1 with marginal tear not affecting text, some occasional pale spotting.) Contemporary mottled calf (rebacked preserving the contemporary spine, corners and inner hinges strengthened); quarter niger folding box.

    "THE GREATEST INTELLECTUAL STRIDE THAT IT HAS EVER BEEN GRANTED TO ANY MAN TO MAKE" (Einstein)

    FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE title-page with two-line imprint including the words "Prostat apud plures Bibliopolas" and uncancelled, with signature P4 in the original uncancelled state. "THE GREATEST WORK IN THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE" (PMM), the Principia elucidates the universal physical laws of gravitation and motion which lie behind phenomena described by Newton's predecessors Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler. He establishes the mathematical basis for the motion of bodies in unresisting space (the law of inertia); the motion of fluids and the effect of friction on bodies moving through fluids; and, most importantly, sets forth the law of universal gravitation and its unifying role in the cosmos.

    "For the first time a single mathematical law could explain the motion of objects on earth as well as the phenomena of the heavens... It was this grand conception that produced a general revolution in human thought, equalled perhaps only by that following Darwin's Origin of the Species (PMM).

    The printing history of the Principia is well-documented, owing particularly to the researches of A.N.L. Munby and W. Todd. Most interesting are the two states of the title-page, one with 2-line imprint (as here), and one a cancel with 3-line imprint naming the bookseller Samuel Smith, each reflecting domestic versus foreign distribution (undertaken by Smith) of the work. In addition this copy has the following points: watermark (Heawood 626) present in signatures A, and P-2K, but not discernable anywhere else; p.22 woodcut corrected; p.29 catchword is "ve'"; p.51 signature is G2 (not H2); p.65 correctly paginated; p.72 correctly paginated, last line "punctum" and catchword "P a"; p.91 signature is 2N; p.110 last line begins "fecet Ellipsin... "; p.209 signature is Dd; p.261 correctly paginated; p.267 signature is 2K2 (not 2L2); p.481 catchword is "c2,"; Errata leaf at end (3O4) a cancel. Babson 10; Grolier Science 78 ("THE MOST INFLUENTIAL SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATION OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY"); Koyr and Cohen, Isaac Newton's "Principia", 2 vols., Cambridge: 1971-2; Norman 1586 (3-line imprint title); PMM 161; Wallis 6; Wing N-1048.


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