New York, Park Avenue
15 - 16 June 1998
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 (240 x 173 mm). Title printed in red and black. 19 folding engraved plates (a few plates with very minor marginal stains). Contemporary blind-stamped mottled calf (rebacked to match preserving original lettering piece). Provenance: Le Gendr Pierce Starkie (engraved armorial bookplate).
FIRST EDITION, SUMMARIZING NEWTON'S DISCOVERIES AND THEORIES CONCERNING LIGHT AND COLOR. Newton's study of light and optics began while an undergraduate at Cambridge, and continued later at his home in Lincolnshire during the plague years of 1665-66. He investigated the behavior of light both experimentally and mathematically, and concentrated on the spectrum of colors. Opticks contains Newton's summarization of his discoveries and theories concerning light and color, from his first published paper onward. "The core of his work was the observation that the spectrum of colours (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 colours 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 colours 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 colors which could be separated and recombined at will.
The first edition of Opticks also contains Newton's first mathematical papers in print, and these two mathematical papers (in Latin) were added to assert Newton's priority to the discovery of the calculus over Leibniz. A VERY FINE COPY. Babson/Newton 132; Dibner Heralds of Science 148; Grolier/Horblit 79b; PMM 17; Wallis 174; Norman 1588.
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