NEWTON, Sir Isaac (1642-1727, knighted 1705). 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 (242 x 188 mm). 252 leaves and folding plate. Title in first state, uncancelled; P4 cancel correcting orientation of the diagram on verso, errata inserted at end +/- Ooo4); engraving of cometary orbit inserted before Nnn1. Numerous woodcut diagrams. (Minor marginal browning and occasional minor spotting, W1-4 with a few tiny ink stains, small marginal paper flaws to Cc3 and Mmm4, Gg4 with clean marginal tear.) Bound for King James II, probably by the shop of Samuel Mearne junior, appointed Royal binder following the deaths of his father Samuel and his younger brother Charles, or Robert Steel, who later bound for William III employing the same floral roll: contemporary gold-tooled red turkey, over pasteboard, covers paneled with fillets and a floral roll, crowned Royal cypher JR between palm branches at the four angles, spine lettered and tooled with volutes in seven compartments, marbled endpapers, gilt edges (some minor rubbing, light wear to spine ends, joints and edges, skillfully refurbished by James & Stuart Brockman Ltd).
Provenance: JAMES II, King of England, Scotland and Ireland, 1633-1701, r. 1685-88, (binding); contemporary inscription on title "Vide Extractum hujus Libri Act. Lips. 1688. p.304" - see the précis in Acta Eruditorum; H[endrik] R[oelof] de Breuk (1814-1862) printer, publisher and antiquarian in Leiden (owner's name, dated 1837, on front free endpaper); W[illem] F[rederik] R[einier] Suringar (1832-1898), Dutch botanist (owner's name on front free endpaper); by descent to the present owner.
"And I may be bold to say, that if ever Book was worthy the favourable acceptance of a Prince" Edmond Halley, letter to the King, July 1687.
FIRST EDITION, English issue (two-line imprint). PRESENTATION COPY TO KING JAMES II AS PATRON OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY, TO WHOSE FELLOWSHIP THE BOOK IS DEDICATED. One of the most important works in the history of science, "perhaps the greatest intellectual stride that it has ever been granted to any man to make" (Einstein). This issue was distributed in Britain by Newton and Halley through a number of unnamed booksellers; a smaller issue was turned over to the London bookseller Samuel Smith for distribution on the continent and required a cancel-title (three-line imprint). The edition was divided between two compositors working concurrently, one setting the first two books, the other setting the third. A number of stop-press corrections have been listed by William Todd.
"Following the pioneer researches of Galileo in the study of motion and its mathematical analysis and the important contributions of Descartes and Huygens, the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century culminated in the massive achievements of Newton in dynamics and gravitational astronomy. Kepler's law of planetary motion came to be gradually accepted in the latter half of the century and unsuccessful attempts were made to account for them in terms of a central force emanating from the sun" (PMM). Newton showed that his LAW OF GRAVITY would cause a planet to move in an ellipse about the sun as focus. Newton's work provides a great synthesis of the cosmos and proves its physical unity. His scientific views were not seriously challenged until Einstein's theories of relativity and Planck's quantum theory, but his principles and methods remain essential for the solution of many scientific questions. Halley encouraged Newton to write Principia and Newton acknowledges his contribution in the preface: "Mr. Edmund Halley not only assisted me with his pains in correcting the press and taking care of the schemes, but it was his solicitations that its becoming public is owing; for when he had obtained of me my demonstrations of the figure of the celestial orbits, he continually pressed me to communicate the same to the Royal Society..." (translated by Andrew Motte). Halley also bore the cost of printing, the Royal Society's funds having been depleted, and was instrumental in its distribution.
James II was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in its first year, 1665, and succeeded his brother Charles II, the founder of the Royal Society, as royal patron. Halley presented a copy of his edition of Newton's Principia to the King in July 1687 -- presumably the Royal copy here offered for sale as none other is known -- and wrote: "And I may be bold to say, that if ever Book was worthy the favourable acceptance of a Prince, this, wherein so many and so great discoveries concerning the constitution of the Visible World are made out, and put past dispute, must needs be gratefull to your Majesty" (MacPike). In addition Halley gave a general account of the book and a summary of Newton's "Theory of the Tides", included in Principia, which he thought would be of particular interest to James II, who had been Lord High Admiral before succeeding his brother on the throne (see Rigaud). During his French exile James II took part in a "debate over the Principia... on April 27, 1690, during [his] visit... to the Paris Observatory. Exhibiting familiarity with some aspects of a book that was after all dedicated to him, the deposed monarch lectured his hosts on Newton's conclusions regarding the effects of gravity on the shape of the earth" (Feingold, p. 56). The Royal Society expressed their gratitude immediately after receiving word of the dedication, and Halley wrote to Newton that the Royal Society was "... so very sensible of the Great Honour you do them by your Dedication" (MacPike). Newton was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1672 and was its President from 1703-1726.
ASSOCIATION COPY OF THE HIGHEST BIBLIOPHILE IMPORTANCE AND OF THE GREATEST RARITY IN DECORATED GOATSKIN. While similar royal bindings for Charles II are common, bindings for James as Duke of York and then King are, even considering the brevity of his troubled reign, extremely rare. James II appears to have had a personal library of books of particular interest to him, along with a roughly equal number of books dedicated to him as heir, then King, distinct from the main Royal Library in Whitehall. T. Birrell, the historian of the Old Royal Library, closed his landmark study with the death of Charles II in 1685, precisely because that year, rather than the Glorious Revolution of 1688, marks the end of the main collection down to the Stuarts. A group of books from James' personal library was given, according to G.D. Hobson, by William III to his closest associate William Bentinck, Earl of Portland; some were still in the library at Welbeck Abbey in 1935. Two of James' books with his cypher as Duke of York remain at Windsor Castle, and at least two reached the old Stadholder's Library in The Hague at an early date, according to E. de La Fontaine Verwey. A prayer-book bound for James as Duke of York was sold at Christie's in 2003 (The Library of the 17th Earl of Perth, London, 20 November, lot 130). The only other known books dedicated to James II as King in royal bindings are an account of his coronation (at Welbeck in 1935, see Hobson) and Howell's An Institution of General History (London, 1685), with the only other known use of this cypher, at Parham House, Sussex, with the bookplate of Francis Eyre (1732-1804), of Warkworth Castle, Northamptonshire, which has been described as "The Dedication copy to James II" (Maggs Bros. catalogue 665, 1938). According to American Book Prices Current, no other copy of Newton's Principia bound in contemporary morocco has sold at auction in the past 47 years.
References: Babson 10; Dibner 11; Grolier Science 78; PMM 161; MACOMBER, "Census of Copies of the 1687 first edition and the 1726 presentation issue of Newton's Principia." (Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, Volume 47, 1953): "It is known that Halley presented a copy for Newton to King James II, but the present location... has not been traced"; Norman 1586 (3-line imprint title); A.N.L. Munby, "The two title-pages of Newton's Principia" in Notes and Records of the Royal Society 10 (1952); W. Todd's bibliography in Koyré & Cohen's ed. of Newton's Principia II, 851-3; Wallis 6; Wing N-1048.
Literature: T. Birrell, English Monarchs and Their Books: From Henry VII to Charles II. London, 1987; Cohen, Introduction to Newton's Principia, Harvard, 1971; Davenport, English Heraldic Book-Stamps London, 1909, and Royal English Bookbindings London, 1896; Feingold, The Newtonian Moment, New York, 2004; E de La Fontaine Verwey, "Boekbanden voor Jacobus II in de Koninklijke Bibliotheek" in Het Boek XXVIII.287-293, The Hague, 1944-46; Hobson, Studies in the History of Bookbinding, "A Seventeenth-Century Monogram," London, 1988; MacPike, editor, Correspondence and Papers of Edmond Halley, Oxford, 1932; Rigaud, Historical Essay on the First Publication of Sir Isaac Newton's Principia, Oxford, 1838. Christie's thank Dr Martin Joughin for his assistance with the cataloguing of this lot.