NEWTON, Isaac. Principes mathmatiques de la philosophie naturelle. Translated by Gabrielle-milie le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise du CHTELET (1706-1749) and with historical introduction by Franois-Marie-Arouet de VOLTAIRE (1694-1778). Paris: Desaint & Saillant and Lambert, '1756' [c.1757-1759].
2 volumes, 4 (244 x 185mm). Half-titles to each volume, title ornament, five uses of two pictorial headpieces, one by Nioul and the other signed 'P', type-ornament headpieces, ornamental tailpieces and ornamental and factotum initials. (Some light spotting and very light browning, several plates stained.) Contemporary French mottled calf, gilt spine, two leather spine labels, marbled endpapers, marbled edges (very slight wear at extremities).
RARE PRELIMINARY ISSUE OF THE FIRST EDITION IN FRENCH OF NEWTON'S PRINCIPIA. The first French edition is traditionally considered to have appeared in 1759 (cf. Babson, Brunet, etc), but a few copies with a title-page dated 1756, as the present copy, make it clear that a preliminary issue existed three years earlier than the work was available for general sale to the public. Madame du Chtelet may be considered one of the most important proponents of Newtonianism in France. Her translation, the only translation into French of the Principia, is accompanied by her scientific commentary on the work, revised and possibly completed by Alexis-Claude Clairaut and a lengthy historical preface written by her paramour and intellectual colleague, Voltaire; his popularised version of Newton's philosophy (lmens de la philosophie de Newton) had appeared in 1738. The long delay in publication (Madame du Chtelet died in 1749, having entrusted the manuscript to the abb Salier of the Royal Library at Paris) may be due to Clairaut's work revising the commentary.
Copies dated 1756 are rare; Bernard Cohen located only 13 copies -- not including the present copy -- in his study of the 1756/1759 issues of the French translation ('The French Translation of Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1756, 1759, 1966)' Archives internationales d'histoire des sciences, 21, 1968, pp.262-290). Cohen distinguished three issues, depending on the date of the title-page (1756 or 1759); the state of the 'Avertissement de l'diteur' (a: spelling Clairault and Chtelet, or b: Clairaut and Chstellet); the presence or absence of Cotes's preface; and the state of 4 leaves (vol. I: 1 and 235; vol. II, p. 1 of both foliation which are mostly clearly distinguished by the presence or absence of a headpiece and initial in two of those four leaves. Cohen found the earliest issue (F1) dated 1756, with the 'Avertissement' in the first state, without Cotes's preface and with the four leaves as cancellanda (i.e. without headpiece or initial in I:1 and II:1 (first foliation). An intermediate issued (F1(bis)) is dated 1756, has the 'Avertissement' in the first state, has Cotes's preface (with one exception) and has the four leaves cancelled. The latest issue is dated 1759, has the 'Avertissement' in either the first or second state, has Cotes's preface and has the four leaves cancelled.
The present copy fits most closely Cohen's F1(bis) state. It is dated 1756, has the 'Avertissement' in the first state, has Cotes's preface and has the four leaves as cancels. A second copy in the British Library (C.175.dd.19) shows another variation to Cohen's three issues: it is dated 1756 and has the four leaves in uncancelled state, it does not have Cotes's preface, but it has the 'Avertissement' in the second state, which is otherwise known only in copies dated 1759. A FINE COPY. Babson 28 (1759 ed.); Brunet IV, 49. (2)