Isaac Newton's Principia first edition sells for $549,000 at Sotheby's

A first printing, first edition 1687 copy of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica has made £338,500 ($548,878) at Sotheby's London.

The book was the headline lot of the Music, Continental Books and Manuscripts sale on November 27 - selling towards the high end of its £250,000-350,000 ($405,375-567,525) estimate.

Newton Principia first edition
Newton's Principia codifies the laws of motion and gravity

The work represents a giant leap forward in terms of scientific thinking and is the foundation on which much of our current understanding of the universe is built.

Dr David Goldthorpe, from Sotheby's books and manuscripts department, commented prior to the sale on the book's importance to collectors.

"Through its legacy, the book has probably done more to shape the modern world than any other ever published," he said. 

"Even Einstein, whose theories of relativity eventually came to revise those of Newton's, declared that the Principia was perhaps the greatest intellectual stride that it has ever been granted to any man to make."

Fewer than 300 known copies of the Principia were ever printed, with the number surviving to the present day being significantly smaller.

In 2008, another first edition, first printing copy sold for $194,500 at Christie's New York.

On December 6, a copy of the Principia, personally bound for King James II, and valued at $400,000-600,000, will auction at Christie's in New York.

A first edition copy of Bach's Goldberg Variations from 1741 also performed well at the sale, realising £206,500 ($336,750) - an increase of 37% against a £100,000-150,000 ($163,080-244,620) estimate.

We have this piece of an original score by jazz musician John Coltrane.

Sign up to our free newsletter for the latest on rare books, manuscripts and other collectibles.

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock