NEWTON, Sir Isaac Opticks: or a Treatise on the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections and Colours of Light. William and John Innys. 1721.
8vo. Recently rebound by Bayntun in contemporary-style full calf, spine with raised bands and red morocco gilt label; pp. [viii] + 382 + 4 [publisher's catalogue], 12 folding plates; occasional light spots, very good.
Third edition, the last produced in the author's lifetime. Newton's classic work on light was first published in 1704 and ranks alongside Principia as a crucial contribution to the history of science. Unlike Principia, it is also easily comprehensible to the layman. Newton introduces us to the idea that light contains several different spectral hues, that colour is a sensation of the mind and that there might be a multiverse. He describes the first multi-prismatic arrays and the first colour circle. He provides a text that is an exemplum of experimental science at the same time as proposing hypotheses that go beyond the range of the experiments themselves, for instance the conjecture that colours are proportioned like the notes of the diatonic scale, and that light is made up of particles. His theories were greeted with suspicion by a scientific community that still believed in Aristotle's conception of pure white light; it is no wonder that he waited over 30 years before he dared to put the book into print.