London, South Kensington
23 April 2008
NEWTON, Sir Isaac (1642-1727). Opticks: or, a Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light. Also Two Treatises of the Species and Magnitude of Curvilinear Figures. London: for S. Smith and B. Walford, 1704. 4° (231 x 186mm). Title printed in red and black, 19 folding engraved plates (ownership inscription or stamp deleted with a large smudge of black ink on title-verso, showing through to the title, inner margins of title and following leaf rather crudely reinforced, inner margin of title slightly defective, a little light spotting and discolouration). 19th-century calf (rebacked with original spine preserved, a little rubbed). Provenance: indecipherable signature on title.
FIRST EDITION OF NEWTON'S DISCOVERIES AND THEORIES CONCERNING LIGHT AND COLOUR. These studies in light and optics began when Newton was an undergraduate at Cambridge and continued at his Lincolnshire home during the plague years of 1665-66. 'The core of his work was the observation that the spectrum of colours (formed when a ray of light shines through a glass prism) is stretched along its axis, together with his experimental proof that rays of different colours are refracted to different extents. This causes the stretching, or dispersion, of the spectrum. All previous philosophers and mathematicians had been sure that white light is pure and simple, regarding colours as modifications or qualifications of the white. Newton showed experimentally that the opposite is true', PMM 172; Babson 132; Dibner 148; Grolier/Horblit 79b; Norman 1588.
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