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NEWTON, Isaac.

Opticks: or, a Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections and Colours of Light.

The Fourth Edition, Corrected.

London: William Innys, 1730 Stock Code: 141301
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"Newton's Opticks did for light what his Principia had done for gravitation"

Fourth edition, the final and definitive edition, revised by Newton and published three years after his death. The Opticks, first published in 1704, heralded a revolution in the scientific understanding of visible light. "All previous philosophers and mathematicians had been sure that white light is pure and simple, regarding colours as modifications or qualifications of this white. Newton showed experimentally that the opposite is true... Natural white light, far from being simple, is a compound of many pure elementary colours which can be separated and recompounded at will" (PMM). "Newton's Opticks did for light what his Principia had done for gravitation, namely place it on a scientific basis" (D. W. Brown, cited in Babson).

The copy of Barnabas Bidwell (1763-1833), with his presentation bookplate to his alma mater Yale College to the front pastedown, dated 1790 (perhaps at a later date), with Yale College's later duplicate note for de-accession. A political figure of some controversy and intrigue, Bidwell (1863-1833) served in the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives from 1801 to 1807, thereafter acting as the state's Attorney General from 1807 to 1810. Bidwell was in consideration by President Madison for appointment to the Supreme Court, but accusations of embezzlement scuppered his chances, and he fled to Canada. Unable to end his political ambitions, he ran for and won a seat in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada, but had his election overturned as a fugitive of justice and having taken an oath of allegiance to the United States.

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Octavo (200 x 125 mm). Contemporary calf, rebacked to style, red morocco label.


Complete with terminal advertisement leaf and 12 folding plates.


Ownership signature on front pastedown "O + Welles' Book 1762"; ownership inscription on front free endpaper verso, "A. R. Moore Rutgers 1920" with note of reback in 1940 (since rebacked again); loosely inserted letter from Moore to "Charles" presenting the book, dated February 1961, title page with faint library blind stamp and crayon shelf mark, neat notation of date (9/4/1890) on verso. Expert repair to tips, offset discolouration to endpapers, contents lightly toned with scattered foxing, small paper faults (not near text) to D3 and X3. A very good copy.


Babson pp. 68-69; ESTC T69138;

PMM 172 for first edition.


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