“THE PLACE OF ANY STAR IN THE PRIMITIVE SPHERE”: FIRST EDITION OF ISAAC NEWTON’S CHRONOLOGY, 1728, WITH THREE FOLDING PLATES, SCARCE LARGE-PAPER COPY
NEWTON, Isaac. Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended. To which is Prefix’d, A Short Chronicle from the First Memory of Things in Europe, to the Conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great. London: J. Tonson, J. Osborn, and T. Longman, 1728. Quarto, contemporary full brown calf rebacked in elaborately gilt-decorated calf, raised bands, red morocco spine label.
First edition, large paper copy, of Newton’s posthumously published work, demonstrating the value of the Ptolemaic system in his “startling revision of long accepted historical dates,” with three folding diagrams of Solomon’s Temple. A most desirable large-paper copy issued on thick paper.
Published posthumously, Newton’s Chronology expresses his long pursuit of “a new system of ancient chronology,” potentially heretical in its “startling revision of long accepted historical dates.” Here Newton attempts to calculate the dates of ancient events using astronomical considerations that demonstrate the value of the Ptolemaic system. Newton had spent years on the work when the 1725 publication of a pirated version in French, which also refuted its conclusions, motivated him to complete his text, a task occupying him until his final days. On visiting Newton two years before his death, a friend recalled his display of “a drawing of the plan for Solomon’s Temple, which became the centerpiece of the Chronology’s fifth chapter.” Shortly before Newton died in 1727 Bishop Pearce wrote that “‘I found him writing over his Chronology… He read to me two or three sheets of what he had written” (Christianson, 564-5). “Newton told Pearce that he had spent 30 years at intervals in reading over all the authors… which could furnish him with materials for his Chronology, and that he had written that work 16 times with his own hand” (Allibone, 1420). Following Newton’s death, his colleague Henry Pemberton arranged the book’s publication. A scarce large paper issue on thick paper. Lovely engraved headpiece and initial by Fourdrinier on dedication page. With 96 mispaginated 66 as in Babson. Babson 214. Gray 309. Wallis 309. With armorial bookplate of J. Kennedy of the Kennedy Scottish branch in Underwood, County Ayr, dating to 1850: containing the family motto: “Vincit Vim Virtus” (Virtue Conquers Force). Penciled notations to rear blank.
Text and plates generally fresh with light scattered foxing, mild occasional marginal dampstaining, a leaf or two roughly opened. Contemporary calf boards expertly restored. Quite handsome.