Rare Scientific Manuscript Penned by Sir Isaac Newton Brings $118,750 in University Archives Auction

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Summary

The manuscript, with mathematical notes and calculations relating to Book III of Newton’s seminal scientific work “Principia”, was the top lot of the 409-lot sale that grossed $678,043.

Press Release

Wilton, CT, USA, June 2, 2021 — A manuscript penned by Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), with mathematical notes and calculations relating to Book III of his iconic scientific work Principia, changed hands for $118,750 in University Archives’ online-only auction of rare autographs, manuscripts, artwork and comic art held on May 26th. It was the top-selling item of the 409 lots in the sale.

“We’re still experiencing strong prices and keen new interests in many areas,” said University Archives president and owner John Reznikoff. “We’ve sold over three million dollars of items at auction so far this year, and we are not even at the halfway mark. This is another banner year.”

The rare and important two-page (front and back) manuscript, written by Newton circa 1715-1725, was believed to relate to Newton’s De Mundi Systemate (or Book III of the Principia). It was a set of mathematical notes containing several types of calculations and data points. One side was just calculations; the other side had a short note by Newton along with a calculation.

The text of the note reads, in part, “And that of Aldebaran and of Spica and that of Arcturus counting these longitudes not from the middes of the signes but from the Vernal Equinox/ And so of the rest of the fixed stars.” Newton was referencing the longitudinal position of Aldebaran and other stars, plus data points relating to his revolutionary study of comets.

Isaac Newton is widely recognized as one of the greatest mathematicians and most influential scientists of all time and was a key figure in the scientific revolution. In Principia, he formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation that formed the dominant scientific viewpoint (until it was superseded by Einstein’s theory of relativity). Einstein was also featured in the auction.

Items pertaining to Newton are exceedingly rare and highly sought after by collectors. The last time a Newton Principia-related autograph manuscript came on the market was October 1999 and, before that, 1991 and 1979. Newton was a notorious hoarder of paper and of his own manuscripts; the preservation of this manuscript note was unusual even for him.

Future online auctions for University Archives will feature presidential items (from Washington to Trump), literary giants (Kerouac, Shelley, Proust and others); space and aviation (U.S., the Soviet Union, etc.) and other categories. Visit www.UniversityArchives.com for more details.

For more information about University Archives please visit www.universityarchives.com.