James II Newton's 'Principia' brings $2.5m to Christie's auction

A stunning first edition copy of Isaac Newton's "Naturalis Principia" that was specially bound and presented to King James II has sold at Christie's December 6 Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts Including Americana auction in New York.

Isaac Newton King James II Principia
Despite his reputation as the 'Merry Monarch', King James II was actually something of a bookworm, and had his own personal library of books of particular interest to him

The exquisitely bound book was valued at $400,000-600,000, but made a superb 320.0% increase on estimate to sell for $2.5m - a price that Paul Fraser Collectibles believes to be a record for the work. One of the most important books in the history of science, it was boosted by its royal provenance.

It is in the "Principia" (full title Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica), that physicist Isaac Newton first published his universally-acclaimed Law of Gravity in 1687.

With its printing and publishing paid for by astronomer Edmond Halley (after whom Halley's Comet is named), the work revolutionised the way we think about the movement of planetary objects.

King James II, who reigned for just three years between 1865 and 1868, was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in its first year and, following the death of his brother and the society's founder, King Charles II, became its royal patron.

Bound in decorated goatskin, this is the only known copy presented to the king, with Edmond Halley writing to him:

"And I may be bold to say, that if ever Book was worthy the favourable acceptance of a Prince, this, wherein so many and so great discoveries concerning the constitution of the Visible World are made out, and put past dispute, must needs be gratefull to your Majesty."

Recognised for its importance, the Principia is highly valued among collectors, with a standard first edition of the book selling for $549,000 at Sotheby's recently.

Paul Fraser Collectibles has some wonderful books and manuscripts for sale, including signed manuscripts from Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

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