Rare copy of Sir Isaac Newton book up for auction in Staffordshire

A rare copy of a centuries-old book regarded as the most important work in the history of science is coming up for auction in Staffordshire.

Jim Spencer with the Isaac Newton book. Photo: Mark Laban Hansons
Jim Spencer with the Isaac Newton book. Photo: Mark Laban Hansons

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 at Bishton Hall in October 13.

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

A first edition copy of Sir Isaac Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy in English. Photo: Mark Laban Hansons

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 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 have already had interest from collectors round 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."

Sir Isaac Newton 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.

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