Rare Sir Isaac Newton book considered 'most important in history of science' could stun at auction

Posted on 08/10/2020 in Press Coverage

A rare copy of a centuries-old book considered to be the most important work in the history of science is coming up for auction.

A first edition copy of Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy in English will go under the hammer in Hansons Auctioneers’ Library Auction on October 13 and hopes are high that it will exceed expectations.

The 291-year-old book, which comes in two volumes and was published in 1729, has an estimate of £8,000-£10,000. However, a copy found in Wales during lockdown recently sold (Oct 8) for £22,000 at auction and interest is strong around the world.

Jim Spencer, books expert at Hansons Auctioneers, said: “It's an incredibly scarce book, perhaps only a few hundred were printed. The very first edition of Newton’s Principia was published in 1687 in Latin and a copy has sold in recent years for millions of dollars. This is the first edition in English, translated by Andrew Motte, and is such an important thing.

"This one arrived in the post during lockdown, marked for my attention, from a client in the Channel Islands. I couldn't believe it. I was just thrilled to hold something of such significance in my hands - what an honour to catalogue this.

"This is a good example, and deserves to smash the estimate. The vendor could get a very pleasant surprise. There must be a few tech millionaires out there who appreciate Newtonian physics, so there's every chance of a bidding battle! I've already had interest from collectors around the world.”

The seller, who did not wish to be named, said: “This book has been in my family’s possession for at least 60 years having been procured by my grandfather during the 1950s and left to me on his death in 1980.

“I remember my grandfather well. I was 14 when he died. He was an amazing man, entirely self-made and educated, rising from extreme poverty and willing to do anything if he had to, including, but this may be apocryphal, shooting himself in the foot and digging out the bullet to get out of the Somme.”

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1726) was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author, described in his own day as a natural philosopher.

He is widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), first published in 1687, laid the foundations of classical mechanics.

The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, first edition in English, translated by Andrew Motte, with The Laws of the Moon's Motion, by John Machin, in two volumes, London: Benjamin Motte, 1729, will be sold on October 13, Lot 45. To find out more, email [email protected].

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