• Principles of Principia: Some Notes on the Print Run for the First Edition

    Jamie Cumby (see profile) , Jason W. Dean (see profile)
    Bibliography, Books, History, Science
    Item Type:
    Issac Newton, Principia, Book history, History of science, History of the book
    Permanent URL:
    This article is a response to the 2020 census of known copies of the first edition of Isaac Newton's Principia, published in a preliminary draft form by Mordechai Feingold and Andrej Svorenčík. In our capacity as History of Science librarians, and as custodians of two of the recorded copies of Principia’s first edition, we recommend amendments to one of the core claims to come out of the new census: a revised estimate for the size of Principia's print run. In arguing that Principia was widely read and collected, Feingold and Svorencik eagerly extend previous estimates made by A.N.L. Munby and Henry Macomber. However, the particular metric that they use raises concerns from a book historical perspective. Their methodology, based on a combination of surviving copies and the contemporary price set by publishers, betrays a misunderstanding about the relationship between print runs and edition survival. In this article, we approach the issue of print runs from a bibliographic perspective, drawing on the existing literature about edition survival. We then offer an argument for a return to Munby's earlier estimate of Principia's print run, based on the wealth of bibliographic and historical evidence surrounding its production. Our essay is both an examination of the first edition of Principia and a tacit reminder that book history and bibliography is foundational to any discussion of first editions, and to any durable census of books.
    The PDF is based on the preprint text, with a light edit in note 16. Authors retain copyright over articles published in The Book Collector: https://www.thebookcollector.co.uk/copyright
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    2 years ago


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