“THE GREATEST WORK IN THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE”: FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH OF NEWTON’S PRINCIPIA
NEWTON, Isaac. The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Translated into English by Andrew Motte. To which are added, the Laws of the Moon's Motion, according to Gravity [by John Machin]. London: Benjamin Motte, 1729. Two volumes. Octavo, contemporary full dark brown calf rebacked with original spines laid down, raised bands, red morocco spine labels. Housed together in a custom clamshell box. $39,500.
First edition in English of Newton’s landmark Principia, published two years after his death, with scarce copper-engraved frontispieces and three headpieces by the translator Andrew Motte, 47 engraved folding geometric plates, and two folding tables.
First published in Latin in 1687, "the Principia is generally described as the greatest work in the history of science. Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler had certainly shown the way; but where they described the phenomena they observed, Newton explained the underlying universal laws. The Principia provided the greatest synthesis of the cosmos, proving finally its physical unity. Newton showed that the important and dramatic aspects of nature that were subject to the universal law of gravitation could be explained, in mathematical terms, with a single physical theory. With him the separation of the natural and supernatural, of sublunar and superlunar worlds disappeared. The same laws of gravitation and motion rule everywhere; for the first time a single mathematical law could explain the motion of objects on earth as well as the phenomena of the heavens. The whole cosmos is composed of inter-connecting parts influencing each other according to these laws. It was this grand conception that produced a general revolution in human thought, equaled perhaps only by that following Darwin's Origin of Species… [Newton] is generally regarded as one of the greatest mathematicians of all time and the founder of mathematical physics" (PMM 161). John Machin's 71-page treatise "Laws of the Moon's Motion According to Gravity" misbound at rear of Volume I, with accompanying plates bound at the end of Volume II. Bound without half titles, as usual. Babson 20. Gray 23. Norman 1587. Engraved armorial bookplates of Reverend Henry Godfrey Godfrey Faussett-Osborne; owner signatures to title pages.
Frontispiece in Volume I mounted and remargined, likely supplied from another copy of the same edition; text and plates clean and fine. Expert restoration to extremities of contemporary calf binding. An exceptionally attractive copy.