Book of the Week — Opticks or, a Treatise of the Reflections…


“God in the beginning formed matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, movable particles, of such sizes and figures, and with such other properties, and in such proportions to space, as most conduced to the end for which he formed them.”

Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
London: Printed for S. Smith, and B. Walford, 1704
First edition, first issue
QC353 N55

Isaac Newton’s theories and experimentations on color and light grew out of his undergraduate studies. He introduced some of his ideas detailed in Opticks in an article he wrote for the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1671. When Newton presented his concepts about the behavior and characteristics of light, particularly that white light is composed of a spectrum of colors, he posed a number of questions intended to stimulate further research. Opticks explains such phenomena as rainbows and contains two treatises supporting his side of the dispute with Leibniz that it was, indeed, he who discovered calculus.

“In a Letter written to Mr. Leibnitz in the Year 1676, and published by Dr. Wallis, I mentioned a Method by which I had found some general Theorems about squaring Curvilinear Figures, or comparing them with the Conic Sections, or other simplest Figures with which they may be compared. And some Years ago I lent out a Manuscript containing such Theorems, and having since met with some Things copied out of it, I have on this Occasion made it publick, prefixing to it an Introduction and subjoyning a Scholium concerning that Method.”

Nineteen copper-engraved folding plates. This first issue was published anonymously, with only the initials “I.N.” at the end of the Advertisement.

qc353-n55-fig8 qc353-n55-fig13

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