10 December 1999
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 Samuel Smith and Benjamin Walford, 1704.
4o (241 x 188 mm). Collation: s2; A-S4; Aa-Bb4 Dd-Ss4 Tt4 (1+1) Uu-Zz4 Aaa-Ddd4 Eee2. Title printed in red and black. 19 folding engraved plates. Q3 a cancellans. (Overinked type obscuring one word on p. 55, ca. 5 plates cropped touching image.) Contemporary English red morocco gilt, the sides double-panelled with double and triple fillets and an ornamental roll, a fleuron at each corner, the spine gilt with curving cornerpieces and a central fleuron in each compartment, the title tooled in the second compartment, edges gilt (rehinged, spine darkened); modern morocco-backed cloth box.
Provenance: unidentified engraved bookplate with two crests (or a rebus) depicting a leopard (?) and a dolphin (?); Macmillian A. Bowes, Cambridge, booklabel.
FIRST EDITION, containing Newton's fullest account of his discoveries and theories concerning light and color. Newton's study of light and optics began while he was an undergraduate at Cambridge. His invention of the reflecting telescope at the beginning of the 1670s brought him to the attention of the Royal Society and resulted in his election to membership in 1672, the year when his experiments with prisms and other lenses were first published. Criticism and further experiments refined his theories, resulting ultimately in the publication of the Opticks.
Newton investigated the behavior of light both experimentally and mathematically and concentrated on the spectrum of colors. Among the most important topics presented in the Opticks are his analysis of white light as a compound of many pure colors and his full explanation of the rainbow; a discussion of interference effects; and the discovery of periodicity (which led to wave theory). The first edition of the Opticks is also important as it contains the first mathematical papers by Newton to be published. These works in Latin, the Enumeratio linearum tertii ordinis and Tractatus de quadratura curvarum, were added to assert Newton's priority over Leibnitz in the discovery of the calculus.
RARE IN CONTEMPORARY MOROCCO. A VERY FINE COPY. Babson/Newton 132; Dibner Heralds of Science 148; Grolier/Horblit 79b; PMM 172; Wallis 174.
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