'The Greatest Work in the History of Science' sells for $191k

Heritage's rare book auction is drawing to a close, and with many of the most coveted texts already sold, it seems likely the top lot has already been taken home.

The rare first edition of Isaac Newton's classic work Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which revolutionised science, laying out laws still regarded as fundamental today was expected to bring as much as $150,000.

It was described as 'The Greatest Work in the History of Science' by Printing and the Mind of Man, a famous text based on an exhibition in the 1960s.

However bidders were desperate to get their hands on this valuable piece of history, and offered far more than this, with the text finally leaving the stage at the live auction for an extraordinary $191,200.

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

It was a strong day for science all round. The fourth edition of the same work and a first edition of Galileo Galilei's Systema Cosmicum both did well, selling for $32,862.50 and $31,070 respectively - at the top end of their forecasts.

Both texts drew criticism when they were published. Newton had deleted credit in this edition which had previously given a nod to his bitter rival, the recently deceased Gottfried Leibnitz. Galileo faced the much more dangerous anger of Pope Urban VIII for writing a book 'biased' in favour of Copernicus.

Biologists see Darwin much as physicists view Newton. First editions of his great work On the Origin of Species consistently sold for six figures throughout 2009, and it seems 2010 is set on the same path. This copy brought $131,450.

Texts associated with great scientists can be worthy investments. Earlier this week, a letter signed by Einstein re-sold at an 11% profit after just four months.


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