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First Edition of Sir Isaac Newton’s ‘Principia’ Could Fetch $1.5 Million at Christie’s

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Sir Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton, an English mathematician, physicist, and astronomer, disperses light with a glass prism. (Apic/Getty Images)

 

Whether or not an apple actually fell on Sir Isaac Newton’s head isn’t really what history ultimately cares about. What it does, however, is the mind inside that head, one of the science world’s most gifted ever. And Newton’s crowning achievement, Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica (a.k.a. the Principia), a book first published in 1687—in Latin, no less—set off a scientific revolution. Within its pages, Newton first states his laws of motion and universal gravitation, as well as a derivative of Kepler’s laws of planetary motion.

How important is this work of science fact? Maybe the modern era’s most famous scientist, Albert Einstein, was quoted as saying the Principia was “perhaps the greatest intellectual stride that it has ever been granted to any man to make.” The book’s editor? None other than Sir Edmond Halley (of Halley’s Comet fame).

Sir Isaac Newton's Principia First Edition
(Christie’s)

 

Now, for only the second time in the last 47 years, Christie’s is offering up the highly coveted first edition of Newton’s Principia, bound in inlaid Moroccan leather. (The other one sold in 2013 for well over $2.5 million. It was a slightly rarer copy, as it was presented to King James II.) This book was a presentation copy for a publisher/bookseller by the name of Samuel Smith. It has a pre-auction estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million.

The Newton lot, along with a number of others, will be available as part of Christie’s “Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts, including Americana” auction on December 14 in New York City. For more on the Newton book, go here. To browse the complete auction, go here. To get a better sense of Sir Isaac Newton’s legacy, watch an interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson on the famed scientist at the bottom.

Sir Isaac Newton's Principia First Edition
(Christie’s)