Newton’s Principia

Sir Isaac Newton, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy)


First edition

Printed in London by Joseph Streater for the Royal Society, 1687

Newton’s Principia is generally regarded as the greatest work in the history of science. Building on the achievements of Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler, Newton explained the underlying universal laws and showed that a single mathematical law could explain the motion of objects on earth as well as the phenomena of the heavens.

The book was bought by the Library from the London bookseller Samuel Smith on 28 November 1690 for the sum of 7s 6d. Its low cost is an indication of the fact that the book was not an immediate success. In order to rid himself of some of the many unsold copies, Newton resorted to donating copies to university and college libraries, including the library of his own college, Trinity College Cambridge.

At the same time he ‘made over a portion of the edition’ of the Principia to Samuel Smith who supplied it to Chetham’s Library some three years after it was published.