June 2016 | Nate Pedersen

Newton's Principia at Auction

Prinicipia-title.pngA first edition of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica, often shortened to "Principia," will be sold at auction by Christie's on July 12. The book was part of the collection of Giancarlo Beltrame, who amassed a very impressive scientific books collection, the first half of which will be sold next month, the second half following on November 30. The estimate is £200,000-300,000 ($268,200-402,300).

First published in 1687, Newton's Principia revolutionized science with mathematical descriptions of the universal physical laws of gravitation and motion, the basis for the motion of bodies in unresisting space (the law of inertia), the motion of fluids, the effect of friction on bodies moving through fluids, and the law of universal gravitation. The Principia was published by Joseph Streater for the Royal Society in London at the expense of Edmond Halley, and distributed to various booksellers by Newton and Halley.

Einstein would later describe the work as "The greatest intellectual stride that it has ever been granted to any man to make."

The Beltrame copy also has an interesting provenance, having belonged to the Victorian historian and philosopher Thomas Carlyle and to the American banker and amateur astronomer Gustavus Wynne Cook.

[Title page image from Wikipedia]