An ode to Newtonian principles

Today the pudding was able to get up close and personal with a first edition (in Latin!) of the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Sir Isaac Newton – referred to in a more concise way as the Principia. This copy lives in the University of Sydney’s Rare Book Collection, and is particularly special as it contains annotations and corrections from Scottish mathematician John Craig aimed at improving the book for its second edition.

This amazing book spelled out the famous Newtononian Laws of Motion upon which classical mechanics is based, investigated Newton’s perspective on gravity and analytically derived Kepler’s laws of motion. It’s hugely significant in the development of the science we know today. It also contains an ode to Newton (really!) written by his friend, Edmond Halley (of Halley’s Comet fame).

We happened to have an English translation of the Principia with us, so we could compare the modern version with this very early version. It was particularly cool to see an annotated figure with hand-written corrections in the 1st edition, and find those corrections implemented in the current version!


Being able to interact with such a rare and important book in the history of science was awesome — I have a feeling this might not be the end of our adventures with rare books, so stay tuned!


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