An authentic personal copy of Isaac Newton’s book ‘Opticks’, which was recently found after being missing for a century, is going up for auction.
Newton’s illuminated treatise analyzes the fundamental nature of Noor It is considered one of the three main works of the scientific revolution in the field of optics. The long lost copy was discovered by a book collector David DeLora As he sorts out his collection during the COVID-19 pandemic. The book is set to go on sale at the San Francisco Rare Book Fair, which takes place from February 3-5, and is expected to fetch the whopping $460,000 price tag.
While organizing his collection, DiLaura, professor emeritus at the University of Colorado, came across a copy of Newton’s Opticks he had purchased 20 years earlier. The book’s plate indicated that the book was a second edition printed in 1717 and had previously been owned by a man named James Musgrave. However, closer inspection revealed a second book plate hidden by the first – revealing the previous owner, Charles Huggins.
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Researching both names, Delora learned that, after Newton’s death intestate in 1727, his books and other possessions had been purchased by a certain John Huggins, who gave them as a gift to his son, Charles, Rector of Oxfordshire. The items were given to Charles’ successor as Rector, James Musgrave, and passed down for generations before a large number of the items were sold in 1920. The book was then considered lost until Delaura’s discovery.
Newton’s glasses were first published in 1704 and were the culmination of decades of the physicist’s investigations into the nature of light. Unlike his more famous Principia Mathematica, which outlined the three laws of motion and was written in Latin, Newton’s Opticks was written in popular vernacular English, making them accessible to a wider audience.
Among the many discoveries detailed in its pages, Newton showed how glass prisms could refract white light and reshape it with the constituent colors of the optical spectrum; influenced the debate as to whether light was a particle or a wave (he thought it was a particle, which he called a particle); He described how our perception of color comes from the way matter selectively absorbs, transmits, or reflects different colors in white light.
Newton’s fascination with light and how we perceive it made his experiments not only daunting, but also painful. As a young man, he inserted a long, blunt suture needle (body) into his eye between the bone and eyeball to poke the retina underneath. By studying the glowing spots in his vision produced by the terrible investigation and comparing his observations with those from the anatomy of a rabbit’s eye, Newton confirmed that the eye behaved like a pinhole camera—reflecting images onto the wall of the retina, which the brain does. We come back later to build our sense of vision.
The copy of Opticks found by DiLaura is believed to be one of two personal copies originally belonging to Newton; It is the original counterpart to the copy of his work, full of annotations, alterations, and footnotes, and is preserved in the collection of the Huntington Library. Personal copies and first editions of Newton’s books are incredibly rare and can be expected to fetch a high price. In 2016, the Latin first edition of Newton’s “Principia Mathematica” was sold at New York’s Christie’s for $3.7 million to an undisclosed buyer, making it the most expensive science book ever sold at auction.