HUYGENS, Christiaan (1629-1695). Traité de la lumière où sont expliquées les causes de ce qui luy arrive dans la refexion, & dans la refraction... par C.H.D.Z Avec un discours de la cause de la pesanteur. Leiden: Pieter van der Aa, 1690.
Two parts in one, 4o (197 x 161 mm). General title printed in red and black, second part with separate title, continuously paginated, both titles with printer's woodcut device, woodcut head-pieces and initials, 89 woodcut diagrams in text, a few repeated. Some light browning and staining. 18th-century calf, spine gilt (some rubbing and light wear to spine and eges, a few worm holes to spine). Provenance: L'abbe de Pontbriand (Paris, dated July 1767, inscription on title); Maletroir Pontcalleck (Paris, dated August 1767), W. Seidel (bookplate).
FIRST EDITION, of Huygens' path breaking exposition of his wave or pulse theory of light. Huygens had developed his theory of light in 1676 and 1677, and completed his Trait de la lumire in 1678. He read portions of the treatise to the Academy during the following year but left it unpublished, until Newton's Principia (1687) and a visit with Newton in 1689 stimulated him to have it printed at last. "Light, according to Huygens, is an irregular series of shock waves which proceeds with very great, but finite, velocity through the ether. This ether consists of uniformly minute, elastic particles compressed very close together. Light, therefore, is not an actual transference of matter but rather of a 'tendency to move,' a serial displacement similar to a collision which proceeds through a row of balls... Huygens therefore concluded that new wave fronts originate around each particle that is touched by light and extend outward from the particle in the form of hemispheres..." (DSB). His wave theory of light was in opposition to the corpuscular theory of light advanced by Newton, and was eventually completed and confirmed by Young and Fresnel over a century later.
The titles in this copy are in the probably earlier state, bearing only the author's initials, as in the large-paper copy described by Horblit. Dibner, Heralds of Science 145; Grolier/Horblit 54; Norman 1139; NLM/Krivatsy 6124.