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: Samuel Smith and Benjamin Walford, 1704.
4o (235 x 185 mm). Title printed in red and black. 19 engraved folding plates (plate number just shaved on two plates). Woodcut diagrams and letterpress tables in the text. (Some light dampstaining to lower margins, two folding plate creased at margins).
Contemporary tree calf, covers with gilt Greek key border (rebacked, old spine laid down).
FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE: "MY DESIGN IN THIS BOOK IS NOT TO EXPLAIN THE PROPERTIES OF LIGHT BY HYPOTHESES, BUT TO PROPOSE AND PROVE THEM BY REASON AND EXPERIMENTS" (A1r). Newton's study of light and optics began while an undergraduate at Cambridge, and continued at his home in Lincolnshire during the plague years of 1665-66. He investigated the behaviour of light both experimentally and mathematically, concentrating on the spectrum of colors. Opticks contains Newton's summarisation of his discoveries and theories concerning light and color, from his first published paper onward, and include his work on the spectrum of sunlight, the degrees of refraction associated with different colors, the color circle, the rainbow, "Newton's rings," and his invention of the reflecting telescope. 'The core of his work was the observation that the spectrum of colors (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 colors 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 colors as modifications or qualifications of the white. Newton showed experimentally that the opposite is true" (PMM). In contrast to the belief in the simple composition of natural white light, Newton demonstrated that natural white light is a compound of many pure elementary colours which could be separated and recombined at will.
The book ends with two mathematical papers in Latin, published to establish Newton's prior claim over Leibniz to THE DISCOVERY OF CALCULUS. "In a Letter written to Mr. Leibnitz in the Year 1676 and published by Dr. Wallis, I mentioned a Method by which I had found some general Theorems about squaring Curvilinear Figures, or comparing them with the Conic Sections ... And some Years ago I lent out a Manuscript containing such Theorems, and having since met with some Things copied out of it, I have on this Occasion made it publick" (Newton's "Advertisement"). This copy is the first issue, with the title printed in red and black within a border and with the imprint, but without the author's name, and with the two treatises on calculus at the end of the work. Babson 132; Dibner Heralds 148; Grolier Science 79b; PMM 172; Norman 1588.