First edition Isaac Newton book breaks world record at auction

Sir Isaac Newton's book broke records at the Sotherby's sale.

Sir Isaac Newton's book broke records at the Sotherby's sale.

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A rare first edition copy of Grantham-born Sir Isaac Newton’s greatest work – described by experts as “the most important work in the history of science” – sold for a staggering £338,500 at an auction today(Wednesday) and set a new world auction record for this work.

Before the auction, at Sotheby’s in London, the 1687 book, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica or Mathematical Principles Of Natural Philosophy, had been expected to fetch between £250,000 and £350,000.

It smashed the existing world auction record for this work by nearly £100,000. The previous record was £241,892 which was set at Christie’s in New York on October 8, 2001.

The copy is described by Sotheby’s as “a beautiful crisp copy” and its condition made it even more valuable and desirable for collectors. Auctioneers Sotheby’s say: “The Principia explained a system of the universe that, once established, was unchallenged until the twentieth century ushered in quantum theory and the theories of relativity.Probably fewer than three hundred copies of the first edition of Principia were printed

The rare first edition copy is in its contemporary vellum binding. Dr David Goldthorpe, a senior specialist in Sotheby’s’ books and manuscripts department,said: “This book changed man’s understanding of the universe. Newton’s Principia was the culmination of the scientific revolution,effectively ushering in the era of modern science and modern physics with its mathematical explanations of gravity and motion. Through its legacy,the book has probably done more to shape the modern world than any other ever published. Even Einstein, whose theories of relativity eventually came to revise those of Newton’s, declared that Principia was ‘perhaps the greatest intellectual stride that it has ever been granted to any man to make.”