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 Samuel Smith and other booksellers, 1687.
First edition, Continental issue (three-line imprint), bound in full inlaid morocco for presentation by the publisher/bookseller Samuel Smith. 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). Two apparently concurrent issues can be distinguished, identified by their title in uncancelled or cancelled state. One was distributed by Halley and Newton themselves through a number of unnamed booksellers, the other was largely turned over to Samuel Smith for distribution on the Continent (as here). This Continental issue is considerably rarer. A superb association copy.
Median 4to (237 x 186 mm). 252 leaves and folding plate. Title in second state, cancelled; P4 cancel correcting orientation of the diagram on verso, errata inserted at end +/- Ooo4); engraving of cometary orbit inserted before B1. Numerous woodcut diagrams in text. (Quires Ss and Fff slightly browned, small piece missing from lower fore-corner of front free endpaper.)
Fine London Restoration mosaic binding: original gold-tooled red turkey with black turkey inlays by Samuel Smith's Binder, gilt-panelled sides incorporating four tools from Samuel Mearne’s first kit (the floral corner tool, floral roll in central panel, oval tool and drawer-handle tool), inlaid black morocco drawer-handle and floral decorations, the spine in seven compartments with six raised bands, black morocco lettering-piece in one, gilt-decorated with black-inlaid designs in the remaining, board edges gilt, marbled endleaves, all edges gilt (slightest darkening to spine ends and board edges, a few minor scuffs, joints and spine bands lightly rubbed, but in original, unrestored condition); full morocco folding case. The Royal
Binder, Samuel Mearne died in 1683 and this presentation binding appears to indicate that Smith's Binder had subsequently acquired some of his atelier's early tools.
Provenance: an unidentified recipient, presented by the publisher Samuel Smith (his morocco label on pastedown: “Ex dono Sam. Smith Bibliopol. Lond.” decorated with the same drawer-handle tool used on the binding); Major-General Sir George Burns (sold Sotheby’s London, 19 July 1966, lot 400, to the present owner).
Of the greatest rarity in decorated goatskin. According to American Book Prices Current, only one other copy of Newton's Principia bound in contemporary morocco has sold at auction in the past 47 years: the presentation copy to King James II, sold Christie’s New York, 6 December 2013, lot 170, $2,517,000. The present copy, in a superb inlaid morocco binding executed by the publisher Samuel Smith’s binder and bearing his morocco presentation label – and from the scarcer Continental issue – is of the greatest bibliophile importance.
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): noting that it is mentioned in Gray’s bibliography, p.6 and that the current “location not known”; 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.
"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.
"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.