Newton's Principia towers amongst giants at Heritage

Heritage's rare and antiquarian books sale, for which internet bidding is already open, boasts some fantastic lots which could be the centrepiece for any collection.

We have already mentioned a first edition of Galileo's Systema Cosmicum, a dialogue between representatives of theories of the cosmos which infuriated Pope Urban VIII by being 'biased' in favour of Copernicus.

That is currently estimated at $35,000 (and has already received bids up to $15,000). But it is by no means the expected top lot amongst the scientific texts.

A rare second issue of the first edition of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica is available in the auction, and expected to fetch up to $135,000. Several very minor corrections are included, and an errata page is bound in at the back.

Sir Isaac Newton Principia
Sir Isaac Newton's Principia
(Click to see inside)

In the Principia, Newton formulated the three laws of motion from which he derived the principle of universal gravitation, "wherein all bodies, of whatever mass, attract one another in proportion to their masses and in inverse ratio as the square of the distance between them. This applies to dust particles as to the mightiest celestial bodies"

Bids for the text have already reached $79,000.

Collectors for whom a six figure book is just one step too far may be interested to know that a copy of the third edition of Newton's work - the last printed during his lifetime and the basis of all subsequent editions - is also present in the sale, estimated at $35,000

Newton was criticised for omitting credit to his rival Gottfried Leibnitz in this edition. Leibnitz was already dead, and could therefore no longer argue his part himself. The live conclusion of Heritage's auction takes place on February 11.


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