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Newton Papers : Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica

Newton, Isaac, Sir, 1642-1727

Newton Papers

<p style='text-align: justify;'>A copy of the first edition of the <i>Principia</i> that Newton annotated in the margin and on interleaved sheets with his own amendments. The project of amending the first edition of the <i>Principia</i> began quite early. During the 1690s, Newton seemed set on the production of a new edition of the <i>Principia</i>, yet despite the efforts of Nicolas Fatio de Duillier and David Gregory, it appeared that the second edition of the <i>Principia</i> was running into the sand. It seems that material concerns, as much as anything else, finally brought a second edition of the <i>Principia</i> to the press. Richard Bentley, who had been one of the first serious expositors of the <i>Principia</i> in the early 1690s, noticed that copies of the work were becoming increasing hard to find and fetched a high price. In the mid-1690s, Bentley had been instrumental in the establishment of the University Press in Cambridge under the direction of the Vice-Chancellor. Despite its considerable scholarly achievements, the new Press was not a financial success and Bentley and his collaborators remained on the lookout for suitable books that might turn a small profit. A second edition of the <i>Principia</i> appeared to be one of these. In 1708, Bentley persuaded Newton to allow him to prepare a specimen for this publication at the Cambridge University Press. Bentley had already managed to talk Newton into allowing William Whiston to edit and print a manuscript of his lectures on algebra, supposedly delivered in the 1670s and early 1680s [Dd.9.68]. He was now able to offer Newton freedom from the concerns that perhaps most bothered him about a new edition of his most important work: the trouble of finding suitable printers and the cost in terms of time of correcting and seeing the book through the press. Bentley was well aware of the difficulty that English compositors had in setting complex Latin texts and of the extra demands that this might impose on the author. At first, he proposed to look after the production of the <i>Principia</i> himself, but as its demands became more complicated he abandoned the work. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'> Bentley recommended, however, that Roger Cotes, the young Plumian Professor of astronomy in Cambridge, supervise the edition for Newton. The result was a collaboration that substantially improved the text of the <i>Principia</i>, despite the delays that were introduced by the realisation that several parts of Book II and Book III in particular needed further consideration. Indeed, Section VII, Book II, was almost entirely rewritten, as well as the opening of Book III. The cooperation between Newton and Cotes can be followed by reading their correspondence which is in part available at Cotes correspondence.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'> Adv.b.39.1, together with other sources such as the annotated copy of the <i>Principia</i> from Newton’s Library (Trinity College, shelfmark NQ.16.200) and the Liber Secundus <a href='/view/MS-ADD-03990'>Add. 3990</a>, allows scholars to obtain important information about Newton’s protracted reworking of the first edition. For example, at the start of Book 3 [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(780);return false;'>p. 402</a>], Newton had defined a number of ‘Hypotheses’ governing his approach to natural phenomenon. In revising the <i>Principia</i>, he developed these hypotheses into a set of rules: ‘Hypotheses’ was firmly crossed through and replaced with ‘Regulæ philosophandi’ (‘Rules of philosophising’).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The book was severely damaged by fire and damp [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(703);return false;'>pp. 347 ff.</a>] some time before it was given to the Library in 1872 as part of the Portsmouth collection.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>A BBC Radio 4 'In Our Time' discussion of Newton's laws of motion can be listened to <a href=''>here</a></p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Niccolò Guicciardini, Università degli Studi di Milano, and Scott Mandelbrote, Peterhouse, Cambridge. <br /><br /></p><p style='text-align: justify;'><iframe width="560" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p><p style='text-align: justify;'>On the Principia Mathematica</p><p style='text-align: justify;'><iframe width="560" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p><p style='text-align: justify;'>What are the novel ideas in the Principia Mathematica?</p>

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