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HUYGENS, Christiaan.

Traité de la lumière.

Où sont expliquées les causes de ce qui luy arrive dans la reflexion, & dans la refraction. Et particulierement dans l'etrange refraction du cristal d'islande ... Avec un discours de la cause de la pesanteur.

Published: Leiden: Pieter van der Aa, 1690

Stock code: 69037

Price: £22,500

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First edition of Huygens’s path breaking exposition of his wave or pulse theory of light. Huygens had developed his theory in 1676 and 1677, and completed his Traité in 1678. He read portions of it to the Academy the following year but left it unpublished until publication of Newton’s Principia in 1687 and a visit to Newton in 1689 stimulated him to have it printed at last. “Light, according to Huygens, is an irregular series of shock waves which proceeds with very great, but finite, velocity through the ether. This ether consists of uniformly minute, elastic particles compressed very close together. Light, therefore, is not an actual transference of matter but rather of a ‘tendency to move’, a serial displacement similar to a collision which proceeds through a row of balls … Huygens therefore concluded that new wave fronts originate around each particle that is touched by light and extend outward from the particle in the form of hemispheres …” (DSB). His wave theory of light was in opposition to the corpuscular theory of light advanced by Newton, and was eventually completed and confirmed by Young and Fresnel over a century later. The titles in this copy are in the probably earlier state, bearing only the author’s initials (C.H.D.Z.), as in the large-paper copy described by Horblit.

Small quarto (189 157 mm). Contemporary sprinkled calf, neatly rebacked to style with red morocco label. Housed in a black cloth flat back box by the Chelsea Bindery. General title printed in red and black, second part with separate title, continuously paginated, both titles with woodcut printer’s device, woodcut headpieces and initials, 89 woodcut diagrams in text, a few repeated. Some imperceptible paper restoration to old wormholes in the gutter not affecting text, text generally clean and fresh, an excellent copy.

Bibliography: Dibner, Heralds, 145; Grolier/Horblit 54; Norman 1139; NLM/Krivatsky 6124.

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