An extremely rare continental copy of the first edition of Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica went into auction recently with a guide price of $1 million. It became the most expensive printed scientific book ever to be auctioned with the winning bid fetching over $3.7 million for the auction house Christie’s. The auction house raised a total of $9.3 million at the gala event, as reported by The Guardian.
‘Perhaps the greatest intellectual stride that it has ever been granted to any man to make,’ as described by Albert Einstein, the continental edition of the Principia Mathematica was intended for the European mainland and bears minor differences from the British edition. Out of the about 400 copies of the first edition originally printed, only 80 of the continental issues are thought to have been published, making it a rare addition to one’s book shelf. The Royal Society, of which Newton was a member, retains two copies of the book, including the original manuscript which it describes as its ‘greatest treasure’.
Along with other contributions to the development and advancement of our understanding of physics, the work is mostly popular for Newton’s laws of motion and his law of universal gravitation.
According to Christie’s, other sale highlights included nine lots of correspondence to Marquis de Chastellux, featuring six letters by George Washington and three by Thomas Jefferson. As reported by The Guardian, they sold for a total of $1.1 million.