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A preliminary census of copies of the first edition of Newton’s Principia (1687)

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Following a vexing year of seeing the Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica through the press – a process that necessitated constant cajoling of the author to complete his work and release the manuscript – its indefatigable editor, Edmond Halley, informed Isaac Newton on 5 July 1687 that he was done: ‘I have at length brought your Book to an end, and hope it will please you’. 1 He had sent Newton twenty copies, Halley added, ‘to bestow on [his] friends’, as well as forty other copies ‘to put into the hands’ of Cambridge booksellers. As for the cost: ‘I entend the price of them bound in calves’ leather and lettered to be 9 shill here, those I send you I value in quires at 6 shill: to take my money as they are sold, or at 5sh a price certain for ready, or else at some short time’. 2 Owing to the labours of many scholars over the past century and a half, we know a great deal about the events surrounding the composition and printing of the Principia. 3 Surprisingly, however, our knowledge about the size of the edition, the manner in which copies were distributed, and the early reception of the book – both in England and on the Continent – is still fragmentary.

When Henry Macomber published his census of owners of the first edition of the Principia in 1953, he believed the edition to be ‘small’, ‘perhaps not more than 250 copies’ – thereby aligning himself with an estimate furnished by W. W. Rouse Ball six decades earlier – though he did cite A. N. L. Munby's more generous estimate. Basing himself on average print runs of contemporary works, and correlating the average rate of survival of early modern books with actual size of editions, Munby hazarded to suggest in 1952 that the first edition of the Principia could not ‘have comprised less than three hundred copies, and the figure may well have been a hundred more’. Four decades later D. T. Whiteside concurred. He saw ‘nothing outrageous in supposing that Halley ordered some 500 copies to be printed’. 4 More recently, however, Owen Gingerich conjectured – based on the commonality of known copies of the first edition of the Principia – that more than 600 copies were printed, and ‘possibly as many as 750 copies’. Gingerich grounded his estimation on a ratio he proposed between extant copies and approximate print runs. Thus, if survival rate is around sixty percent, he argued, then the nearly 277 copies of the first edition of Copernicus's De revolutionibus represent a print run of 400–500 copies. 5 If correct, our locating 387 copies denotes an edition of 600–650 copies.

Lower estimates of the size of the first edition of the Principia were based partly on assessments regarding an inhospitable market for highly technical mathematical books, and partly on the presumption that the vaunted incomprehensibility of the Principia would have militated against a sizeable edition. The limited market for mathematical books was a common feature in the correspondence of the intelligencer John Collins. In 1672, for example, he apprized Newton that ‘Latin Booksellers [in London] are averse to ye Printing of Mathematicall Bookes there being scarce any of them that have a forreigne Correspondence for Vent, and so when such a Coppy is offered, in stead of rewarding the Author they rather expect a Dowry with ye Treatise’. Collins reiterated the message to John Wallis in 1678: ‘we have very few Latin booksellers that trade beyond Sea and such as doe make a more quick and profitable returne of their Stock than to adventure it in printing of Latin Mathematiques as you well know by Experience’. He articulated this more bluntly in a letter to the mathematician Thomas Baker:

Mathematical learning will not here go off without a dowry; the booksellers have lost so much by the works of Drs. Wallis and Horrox, the Optic and Geometric Lectures of Dr. Barrow, &c. … that it is no easy task to persuade booksellers to undertake any thing but toys that are mathematical. 6

Incomprehensibility was encapsulated in Martin Folkes's recollection of a quip by a Cambridge student upon sighting Newton: ‘there goes the man that writt a book that neither he nor any body else understands’. John Theophilus Desaguliers commented similarly in his dedication to Newton of ’s Gravesande, Mathematical Elements of Natural Philosophy: ‘And as there are more Admirers of your wonderful Discoveries, than there are Mathematicians able to understand the two first Books of your Principia’, it was necessary to explain them through experiments. 7 We shall return to the issue below. Such considerations, however, played little role in determining the size of the first edition of the Principia. Halley's defraying the production cost himself rendered the presumed reluctance of publishers immaterial, while his veneration of the author, and admiration of the book's content, made him determined to spread the gospel according to Newton far and wide.

At a meeting of the Royal Society on 21 April 1686 – which followed on the heels of a council meeting in which a committee report revealed that the printing of Francis Willughby's Historia piscium had cost the Society a staggering £360 – Halley read a discourse ‘designed for a Philosophical Transaction, concerning the cause and properties of gravity’. The lecture served as prelude to the presentation, during the following week, of the manuscript of Book 1 of the Principia:

It was ordered, that a letter of thanks be written to Mr. Newton; and that the printing of his book be referred to the consideration of the council; and that in the meantime the book be put into the hands of Mr. Halley, to make a report hereof to the council. 8

Reporting to Newton a month later on the reception of his ‘Incomparable’ book, Halley explained that since the president and vice-presidents were out of town, no ‘Authentick Councell’ could be summoned in order ‘to resolve what to do in the matter.’ Hence, on the previous Wednesday (19 May)

the Society in their meeting, judging that so excellent a work ought not to have its publication any longer delayd, resolved to print it at their own charge, in a large Quarto, of a fair letter; and that this their resolution should be signified to you and your opinion therin be desired, that so it might be gone about with all speed. I am intrusted to look after the printing it, and will take care that it shall be performed as well as possible. 9

Halley's taking advantage of a propitious ordinary meeting of the Society in order to push through a favourable resolution regarding the publication of the Principia hardly differed from Tancred Robinson's similar manoeuvring of an ordinary meeting, fourteen months earlier, to commit the Society to the publication of the Historia piscium – a resolution the council subsequently ratified. However, rampant factionalism, in addition to a depleted treasury, forced the council to act differently when it came to the Principia, and on 2 June it reversed the resolution of the meeting of 19 May: ‘It was ordered, that Mr. Newton's book be printed, and that Mr. Halley undertake the business of looking after it, and printing it at his own charge; which he engaged to do.’ 10

Once assuming control over production, Halley took advantage of his position as clerk to the Royal Society in order to use the official correspondence of the Society as means through which to advertise the forthcoming masterpiece. In May 1686, for example, he furnished Johann Christoph Sturm with a brief description of the theory of gravity, the causes of which were ‘brilliantly investigated’ by Newton. Two months later he apprized Salomon Reisel, physician to the duke of Württemberg, of ‘a truly outstanding book … in press’, written by Newton, who ‘of all geometers who have ever existed (is) perhaps the greatest. By this example [the Principia] it will be proved how far the human mind properly instructed can avail in seeking truth’. Halley freely resorted to superlatives when writing to native correspondents – as he did when describing the Principia to William Molyneux: ‘the utmost Effort of Human Capacity’. 11 By spring 1687 Halley also circulated printed sheets of at least Book 1 of the Principia among select friends, including John Flamsteed and William Molyneux. 12 Even a newly arrived visitor to England, Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, was permitted to peruse printed sheets before publication, purposely in the hope that he might spread the new gospel among his Continental friends. Fatio did not disappoint. 13

The book indeed made a splash. When Newton's Opticks was published in 1704, John Flamsteed commented that it ‘Makes no noyse in Town (as the principia did)’. 14 Halley did what he could to capitalize on the anticipation. In addition to inserting a glowing summary into the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 15 he dispatched review copies to leading Continental journals. Jean Leclerc, editor of the Bibliothèque Universelle et Historique was the first to publish a review, or rather an extended summary of the book, in March 1688, written by John Locke. It is possible that Le Clerc asked someone else first – or that Locke proved tardy – for Le Clerc had listed the title of Newton's book in the table of contents of the previous volume (October-December 1687). Be that as it may, Le Clerc may have only lent Locke a copy. The auction catalogue of Le Clerc's library included a copy of the first edition of the Principia – as well as of the second edition – while the copy found in Locke's library was the one bestowed on him by Newton (No. 143). 16 Thus far Le Clerc's copy has not been found, but he certainly read the book and made good use of it in his Physica sive de rebus corporeis libri quinque (Amsterdam, 1696). 17

In June 1688 there appeared a more comprehensive, and appreciative, review in the Acta Eruditorum, written by the Leipzig professor of mathematics Christoph Pfautz. In eighteen quarto pages, Pfautz managed to present more than just a flavour of the purpose and achievement of Newton's magnum opus: he provided a good summary of the laws of motion; an overview of the manifold topics treated in Books I and II; a summary of the potent critique of the Cartesian vortices; and a ample outline of Book III and of universal gravitation. 18 The final review appeared in the Journal de Sçavans. Halley probably sent a copy to Jean-Paul de la Roque, the editor since 1671, whom Halley may have met during his six months sojourn to Paris in 1681 – or he relied on the good offices of Henri Justel or Fatio de Duillier who knew de la Roque. Be that as it may, de la Roque had relinquished editorial responsibilities in December 1686 and the journal ceased publication until November 1687, when the historian Louis Cousin took over. The terse review – some 340 words filling less than a printed page – was published on 2 August 1688. It was traditionally ascribed to the Cartesian Pierre-Sylvain Régis. Recently, however, the review has been ascribed to Pierre Varignon, erroneously we believe. A more likely candidate, we contend, would be Varignon's close friend Bernard de Fontenelle, who had certainly entertained a far more critical stance toward the Principia than Varignon, and whose literary tastes were aligned more closely to Cousin's. 19

The distribution of copies also began in earnest. Newton entrusted his amanuensis, Humphrey Newton, with bestowing some of his author's copies on several heads of house in Cambridge – thus far we identified copies in the libraries of Emmanuel College (No. 127) and Trinity College (No. 143) – as well as on ‘others of his Acquaintance’, such as his early patron at Trinity, Humphrey Babington, who was of the opinion ‘that they might study seven years, before they understood anything of it’. 20 One or more of those heads of house may have retained the copy for their own personal libraries, as did Ralph Cudworth, master of Christ's College; he died on 26 June 1688 and the auction catalogue of his library included a copy of the Principia. 21 Thus far we have failed to locate Babington and Cudworth's copies. Newton apparently did not distribute all his author's copies in 1687. In the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution he sought to ingratiate himself to several influential noblemen by presenting them with the volume. In 1689, for example, he bestowed a copy on William Cavendish, 3rd earl, and subsequently 1st duke, of Devonshire (probably No. 226); 22 around the same time he presented a copy to Thomas Herbert, 8th earl of Pembroke – who had also served as president of the Royal Society in 1689–1690. Pembroke, in turn, gifted the book on 22 April 1690 to the antiquarian John Aubrey (No. 178). In 1702 Newton also gave a copy to his patron Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax (No. 238).

But it was Halley who distributed most gratis copies, often in Newton's name. He presented King James II, the dedicatee of the book, with a copy – which may well have been the one sold at Christie's in 2013 (No. 377) – and another to Samuel Pepys, whose imprimatur as president of the Royal Society appears on the title page of the Principia (No. 134). He also informed Newton that he presented, in Newton's name, copies to the Royal Society, Robert Boyle, Edward Paget, and John Flamsteed, further inviting Newton to name others in London whom he wished ‘to gratifie that way’. Newton did not respond, but years later he did acknowledge that Halley had ‘distributed many complimentary copies among my friends in my name’, 23 including Christiaan Huygens, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and Burchard de Volder. 24 Christopher Wren may have also been a recipient; his copy was sold in an auction in 1748. 25 Presumably, Halley sent copies to Johann Christoph Sturm and Solomon Reisel, too, as he did to John Wallis, William Molyneux, Vincenzo Viviani (Galileo's last disciple), and Gian-Domenico Cassini (director of the French Observatory). However, with the exception of Flamsteed (No. 163), Wallis (No. 177), Leibniz (No. 110), and Cassini (No. 26) none of these presentation copies have yet to be identified.

Initially, Halley proved determined to forego accepted norms of commercial distribution. As he intimated to Newton, ‘I am satisfied that there is no dealing in books without interesting the Booksellers, and I am contented to lett them go halves with me, rather than have your excellent Work smothered by their combinations’. 26 The two line imprint on the title-page of the original version announced that copies would be available for sale at many booksellers – ‘prostat apud plures Bibliopolas’. Nor did Halley seek to advertise the Principia in the Term Catalogues. He undoubtedly believed that the hype he helped create would enable him to place copies in multiple bookshops, and he used various contacts to promote continental distribution. As noted above, he requested Newton to place forty copies in as many Cambridge bookstores as possible, and in all likelihood he made a similar request to Oxford correspondents. By chance, we also have information on an arrangement made by Halley with Johann Burckhardt Mencke, editor of the Acta eruditorum. Halley enlisted the good service of the astronomer Detlev Clüver, then living in London, in order to furnish Mencke with not only the review copy of the Principia, but with a few additional copies, in exchange for copies of the Acta eruditorum. 27 How Mencke disposed these copies remains unclear. Worth noting, too, is that Clüver was forced to return to Germany in 1688, leaving his library behind. The library was auctioned in 1691, together with another library, and one may reasonably assume that the copy of the Principia sold there belonged to Clüver. 28 Noteworthy, too, are other private conduits through which copies of the book were distributed. In February 1687 John Flamsteed received complimentary copies of Gottfried Kirch's Ephemeridum motuum caelestium ad annum (Leipzig, 1686). Writing on 17 October 1687 to thank the author, Flamsteed explained that he delayed responding as he awaited the publication of the Principia, so that he might ‘repay what I owed you for the ephemerides with no more acceptable book’. 29

Before long, Halley changed his mind, granting Samuel Smith exclusive distribution rights. This was an obvious choice. Smith was not only bookseller to the Royal Society, but he dealt ‘very much in Books of a Foreign growth, and speaks French and Latin with a great deal of fluency and ease. His Shop is very beautiful, and well furnished’. 30 Smith issued a new title page with a three-line imprint, that included his name and address: ‘Prostant Venales apud Sam. Smith’. The new arrangement may have gone into effect by late 1687. The March 1688 review of the Principia in the Bibliothèque Universelle already referred to the Smith imprint. Around the same time Smith received an order for ‘100 Newton’ from the Amsterdam bookseller Johannes Janssonius van Waesberge II, 31 as well as for twelve copies from the Leiden bookseller, Pieter van der Aa – the latter at the cost of seven guilders a copy. Van der Aa returned seven of them in 1690. 32 The Rotterdam publisher Reinier Leers also appears to have returned in 1690 a few unsold copies to Smith. 33 As for Paris, either Smith or Halley managed to convince the bookseller Jean Boudot to carry copies in his bookstore, as announced in the Journal des Sçavans’ review of the Principia. A. N. L. Munby established that the Smith issue was intended exclusively for sale on the Continent. He had also estimated that it comprised 15–20% of the total print run. Our census revises the estimate. Of the 333 copies for which information regarding the imprint is available, 111 (33%) are of the second variant. Smith, of course, continued to sell both imprints. On 28 November 1690, for example, he sold the ‘Bibliopolas’ version to the Chetham Library for 7s 6d (No. 168). 34 Presumably that imprint was the one he offered for sale in his extensive 1695 catalogue. 35

By the early years of the eighteenth century the stock had been depleted, and the price of the book soared. When Robert Hooke's library was auctioned in 1703, his copy of the Principia fetched £2.3s.6d. Six or seven years later, a Cambridge student, William Browne, ‘gave no less than two guineas’ for a copy. 36 Another owner paid 3 guineas in 1713 (No. 225). None of these copies have thus far been located. Such scarcity is what had prompted Richard Bentley to pressure Newton to produce the second edition. As Roger Cotes put it in the preface to the book: ‘since the available copies of the first edition were extremely rare and very expensive, [Bentley] tried with persistent demands to persuade Newton (who is distinguished as much by modesty as by the highest learning) and finally – almost scolding him – prevailed upon Newton to allow him to get out this new edition’. 37 The second edition, comprising 700 copies, was published c. 18 June 1713, nearly selling out within two years. A measure of its success can be inferred from the publication in 1714 of a pirated edition in Amsterdam, and another in 1723. 38 The publication of the second edition – followed by a third in 1726 – rendered the first edition obsolete as a scientific text, relegating the book to the realm of curiosity, which is reflected in its decline in value by mid-century. In early 1730, Molyneux's copy fetched 6s 2d 39 while Martin Folkes’ copy was sold for 4s in 1756. 40 (No. 131). However, Sir Christopher Wren's copy fetched a paltry 1s in 1748 – as did Henry Pemberton's copy in 1772. 41

Macomber's 1953 census described 189 copies in sixteen countries, including a dozen auctioned copies. Our efforts thus far have uncovered 387 copies in twenty-seven countries, including ninety-one auctioned copies. We were unable to locate the current whereabouts of thirteen copies reported by Macomber, partly because many copies have changed hands multiple times in the intervening decades. We traced thirteen copies reported by Macomber in various auctions and sales without identifying their present owners. Many privately-owned copies found their way into institutional libraries, while several institutional copies, during Macomber's time, have ended up in private hands, owing to ill-advised de-accessioning. It also stands to reason, in view of the number of copies sold in recent decades – and the number of copies acquired by institutions – that the number of privately-owned copies remains high. We have also acquired information on at least seven copies that were either lost or stolen (Zittau, Freiburg, MIT, Gävle, St. Peterburg, Beijing, Edinburgh), as well as located briefly the copy that Dresden had lost during WWII.

Macomber's census was devoted to ‘owners’ of copies, with the stated objective that if a copy ‘were ever lost or stolen, it could easily be recognized’. Our preliminary census aims higher. By creating a comprehensive record of existing copies of the first edition of the Principia, we wish not only to establish the manner and extent of its distribution over time, but to employ information extracted from such copies – and from related records – to shed considerable new light on the collective reception of Newtonian science throughout Europe during the quarter century between the publication of the first and second editions of the Principia – and beyond. Information regarding wide and varied readership of the Principia will serve to modify the received notion that the recondite nature of the book rendered it beyond the reach of virtually all contemporaries. As Whiteside once pronounced: ‘in Newton's own lifetime only a handful of talented men working without distraction at the frontiers of current research’ – namely Christiaan Huygens, Leibniz, Johann Bernoulli, Pierre Varignon, Abraham de Moivre, and Roger Cotes – 'had, each in his own way, achieved a working knowledge of the Principia's technical content.’ 42 Whiteside not only excluded such skilled mathematicians as Edmond Halley, Fatio de Duillier, Jacob Bernoulli, Burchard de Volder, Jakob Hermann, David Gregory, John Machin, John Keill, and Brooke Taylor, to name only the most blatant omissions, but he applied a far too restrictive definition of what constituted a ‘working knowledge of the Principia’s technical content’. As we shall attempt to demonstrate in a future publication, there existed a far broader community of mathematicians and natural philosophers who proved able, and willing, to engage seriously with Newton's ideas – albeit to various degrees of success.

As noted above, perceptions concerning the impenetrability of the Principia date back to the late seventeenth century, supported by anecdotes and episodic information about readers who were confounded by its content. Case in point is the sexagenarian Gilbert Clerke, who turned to Newton for assistance within months of publication, lacing his vexation with chastisement: ‘you masters doe not consider the infirmities of your readers, except you intend to write only to professours or intended to have your books lie, moulding in libraries or other men to gett the creditt of your inventions’. 43 Clerke's opinion was seconded by Henri Justel, when informing Pierre Bayle in August 1687 of the publication of the Principia. Mathematicians consider it to be a ‘masterpiece’, Justel intimated but, he added, ‘Il y a peu de gens qui soient capables de juger de son merite, a cause qu'il y entre de tout ce qu'il y a de plus fin dans la geometrie et dans l'algebre’. Early Scottish readers of the Principia, such as John Craig and Colin Campbell, also admitted in late 1687 that perusing the book proved quite a challenge. 44 The perception was further bolstered by Newton's quip that he had made the Principia deliberately difficult in order to avoid ‘being baited by little Smatterers in Mathematicks’. 45 However, difficulties encountered by early readers hardly constitute evidence that the Principia went unread or remained impenetrable. Craig and other early readers of the Principia certainly persisted in their attempts to master the book, despite initial difficulties.

As Owen Gingerich's magisterial census of Copernicus's De revolutionibus has demonstrated, significantly more discerning readers of the so-called ‘book that nobody read’ existed in the sixteenth- and early seventeenth- centuries. Similar conclusions, we believe, should emerge from our census. Of the 601 copies that Gingerich located (277 of the first edition and 324 of the second), only 42 are heavily annotated, most of which belonged to three groups of individuals who shared their copies and annotations. Our preliminary census appears to yield similar results. Of the 231 copies about which we have gained information regarding marginalia and/or annotations, 45 are heavily annotated – only eight of which are auctioned copies whose current whereabouts are unknown – while 61 include some annotations. Of the remaining 125 copies that are sparsely annotated, if at all, only eleven lack some ownership mark. A careful examination of these marks against other records, might lead to identification of additional owners. We even found evidence for at least one interlocking group of copies with shared annotations, belonging to such members of the Newton circle as Edmond Halley (No. 132, with his annotations 329), Fatio de Duillier (No. 175), David Gregory (No. 91 and possibly 202), Archibald Pitcairne (No. 91 and 203), and Newton himself (No. 119, 148, 331, with Newton's annotations 238, 269, 329). Such annotations would help establish with greater precision how the Principia was disseminated in England and abroad, as well as the early efforts to produce a second, revised, edition.

A few examples should suffice. Tracking down the copy that Newton bestowed on De Volder might help to corroborate the information furnished by Jean Le Clerc in his éloge of the Dutch savant, according to which de Volder read the Principia with zeal and excitement, and his papers included his calculations and demonstrations of Newton's principles. Le Clerc also recalled that when Huygens complained to de Volder about finding Newton's book extremely obscure, the latter retorted: though it was not easy to penetrate the grounds of Newton's demonstrations, yet he [de Volder] had found those that he had examined true. 46 Locating the copy owned by Pierre Varignon, the earliest proponent of the central force motion in France, could prove equally propitious, for Varignon wrote Newton in 1720 expressing eagerness to receive Newton's portrait and ‘see that most famous and learned man whom I have respected for more than 30 years with the greatest veneration’. 47 A more concrete example of what such an integrative approach may yield can be inferred from Leibniz's case. For centuries Leibniz's claim that he had not read the Principia before publishing his theory of planetary motion in the Acta eruditorum, was accepted at face value. Even the discovery of his copy in the Bodmer Library in Geneva did not require reconsideration of the matter, for ‘his annotations prove[d] to be disappointingly insignificant for the specialists in the history of exact science and did not measure up to the exalted expectations that one had hoped to see fulfilled by a genius of Leibniz's calibre’. It was only Bertoloni Meli's scrutiny of Leibniz's manuscripts that brought to light the latter's close reading of the Principia as soon as he received the book – which Halley had forwarded him via the travelling Fatio de Duillier – and the relevance of such a study to Leibniz's paper on celestial motion in particular. 48

As noted above, the conjecture that the second issue of the Principia with the cancelled title page was rare cannot be substantiated, suggesting a receptive market for the book on the Continent. For instance, we uncovered an interesting interlocking group of owners in the Holy Roman Empire, which hitherto has been unrecognized. Anton Ernst Burckhard von Birckenstein, whose copy can be found at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague (No. 12), was the personal teacher of Emperor Leopold I and the author of several geometry books, including the first translation of Euclid into German. An elder courtier was the mathematician Ferdinand Ernst Karl, Graf von Herberstein. When the second edition of Principia was in press, Newton prepared a list of libraries and individuals on whom his wished to bestow a copy, and Herberstein was the only person on the list from the Habsburg Empire. Such inclusion in Newton's list, in turn, helped locate and identify a copy of the first edition of the Principia that was part of the Herberstein family library, now located in Graz (No.4). Herberstein's associate Johan A. Graf von Schaffgotsch also owned a copy, which is currently preserved at the University of Arizona (No. 275).

We titled this article ‘A Preliminary Census’ because a considerable amount of work is still required: to identify as many surviving copies as possible, and to extract from each details about condition, layout, and binding, as well as provenance and annotations. It is our hope that publishing an interim report might yield information regarding other copies – from private owners, book dealers, and scholars – so that a more comprehensive census might be attempted. However, insofar as the contemporary import of the first edition of the Principia is concerned, it is already possible to conclude: the first edition of the Principia reached a far broader readership than traditionally assumed – both in England and abroad; hence the need to revise received scholarly understanding, which underplay the influence of Newtonian ideas on continental science before the 1730s.

The arrangement and contents of the census entries

The census entries are arranged alphabetically by country. England and Scotland form a sublevel under the United Kingdom. Within each country or sublevel the city locations are arranged alphabetically. If there is more than one copy in a given city, then the total number is indicated in brackets. Each copy has an ID number followed by a number in Macomber's census (when available). There are instances when two Macomber numbers are associated with our ID.

Auction records that we were unable to match with known copies are listed at the end. Copies for which the present location is unknown are listed separately.

Each entry contains information in the following order: call, shelf or record number (when available); B- or S-State; binding; marginalia; and provenance.

We have attempted to verify all published information with current owners. There were reporting inconsistencies regarding annotations and binding. If information is not provided, then we were unable to obtain it. We do not report differences with Macomber's list.

Provenance lists only identify past owners. Italic type designates any transcribed manuscript material.

Following abbreviations are used:

Autographs, bookplates, and stamps are stated explicitly. We do not report old shelf marks and monograms. We do not report if another material is bound with a copy. Illegible annotations are in square brackets.

We do not report on the decorative technique used on bindings. We report details of the binding only if it provides information about provenance such as supralibros. Unless specified otherwise, bindings are full.

Information regarding certain copies in Italy (Nos. 57, 63, 65–67, 71, 72) was extracted from Vincenzo Ferrone, The Intellectual Roots of the Italian Enlightenment: Newtonian science, religion, and politics in the early eighteenth century (Atlantic Highland, NJ, 1995), 285n.73.



(# 1.)

State Library of Victoria

531 N481P; B-State; Binding: Contemporary calf with rebacked spine. A few annotations.


  1. Tobias Wildborn (?).

  2. Acquired in 1944 from London bookseller W.H. Robinson for £85.

Sydney (2 copies)

(# 2.)

New South Wales University

MRB/ Q501/ N; B-State; Binding: Soft bound in a paper cover. A few annotations.


  1. David Scott Mitchell (1836–1907), who bequeathed the book to the library.

(# 3.), 126

University of Sydney

B-State; Binding: Contemporary calf. Heavily annotated.


  1. John Craig (1663–1731).

  2. James family of Ightham Court, Kent.

  3. H. C. Elderton.

  4. Arthur Bruce-Smith (1851–1937), who acquired the book in 1908. Donated to the library in 1961 by his heirs.



(# 4.), 99

Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz

II 50482; S-State; Binding: Contemporary vellum. No annotations.


  1. Maximilian Sigismund, Graf von Herberstein (1655–1703).

  2. Jesuit College, Graz, 1743.

  3. University of Graz Library, after 1773.



(# 5.), 100

Koninklijke Sterrenwacht van België, Observatoire royal de Belgique

B-State; Binding: Leather.


  1. Jean Senebier (1742–1809).

  2. Bibliothèque de Genève.

  3. Acquired by the library between 1878–1910.


(# 6.), 101

Bibliothèque du Centre de Documentation et de Recherche Religieuses

Rés.7A.4; B-State; Binding: Contemporary paneled calf.


  1. A cut-out autograph or annotation.

  2. Stamp Sem. Prov. Belg. S.J. The stamp dates before 1935 when two Belgian Jesuit provinces separated.

  3. Stamp Colleg. S.J. Philos. Eegenhoven Bibliotheca and a stamp Bibl. Dom. S.J. Eegenhoven.

  4. Stamp Centre Doc. Rech. Relig. P.B.M. I.H.S.



(# 7.), 188

Dalhousie University

QA 803 A3 1687; B-State; Binding: Rebound in full calf binding. No annotations.


  1. Donated in 1934 by William Inglis Morse (1874–1952).


(# 8.), 189

McGill University (Osler Collection)

N563p 1687; B-State; Binding: Contemporary calf, rebacked. A few annotations.


  1. (tp) J. C. Willisford, August 1828.

  2. (1st fl) autograph of H. Johnson. 1855.

  3. Second free endpaper J. SMITH JUNE 20, 1888.

  4. Sir William Osler (1849–1919) bought it from Sotheran on December 18, 1913 for £18 18s.

  5. Bequeathed to McGill University.


(# 9.)

University of Toronto

sci 01856; B-State; Binding: Contemporary mottled calf. No annotations.


  1. Acquired in 1971 from the book dealer Jake Zeitlin for $4750.



(# 10.)

Nacionalna i sveučilišna knjižnica u Zagrebu (National and University Library in Zagreb)

RVI-8°-31; S-State; Binding: Vellum. No annotations.


  1. (fl) Hic liber mihi advenit dono R. G. Francisci Schmelzer, mei in Mathematicis Professoris domestici Vienna Austria 1735. Franz Schmelzer (1678–1738).

  2. (tp) ex libris Collegio Societatis Jesu Zagrabiae inscripty 1735. After the dissolution of the Jesuit Order, the library became the core of the Croatian National and University library.

  3. (tp) A M[a]gno Ioanne Gallyuff S. I. Ivan Galjuf (1710–1770).

Czech Republic

Nové hrady

(# 11.)

Hrad Nové hrady (Library of the Nové hrady castle)

T/74; S-State.


  1. Georg Franz Buquoy (1781–1851). In 1945 the ownership of the castle was transferred from the Buquoy family to the state.

Prague (2 copies)

(# 12.)

Akademie věd České republiky (Czech Academy of Sciences)

F 139; B-State; Binding: Vellum. No annotations.


  1. (tp) round stamp of the SOC. R. SCIENT. BOH.

  2. Anton Ernst Burckhard von Birckenstein (c. 1686–1744).

(# 13.)

Národní knihovna České Republiky (National Library of the Czech Republic)

D III 18; S-State; Binding: Calf binding, No annotations.


  1. Pastedown with a bookplate J.V.G.K.

  2. (fl) Inscriptus Catalogii Bibliotheca Fidei / Con[?] KInskiani.

  3. (tp) round stamp of the Royal Academy in Prague.

  4. The National Library received this copy in 1777 as part of a donation of the Kinsky family library.



(# 14.), 102

Det Kgl. Bibliotek (The Royal Library)

4° Fys. 5440; B-State; Binding: Contemporary mottled calf. No annotations.


  1. Christian Albrecht, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp (1641–1694).

  2. The Gottorp library was transferred to Copenhagen between 1735–1749.

  3. Transferred to Copenhagen University Library c. 1930, which merged with Royal Library in 2006.



(# 15.)

Bibliothèque Patrimoniale Fesch

B-State; Binding: Contemporary calf. A few annotations.


  1. (pastedown) Reyncau. Charles-René Reyneaud (1656–1728).

  2. (tp) Oratorij Parisiensis Catalogis inscruptus 1734.

  3. (tp) rectangular stamp of the Bibliothèque Nationale du Liamone.

  4. (tp) oval stamp of Bibliothèque Municipal d’Ajaccio.


(# 16.)

Université d'Angers

R 00 282; S-State.


(# 17.)

Bibliotheque de Lyon

Rés 104863; S-State; Binding: Contemporary sheep-skin. Heavily annotated.


  1. Pastedown autograph Malebranche. Nicolas Malebranche (1638–1715).

  2. (tp) ce livre apartient a mon cher Nonnet qui la aporté de Paris.

  3. Bookseller's plate on pastedown Du catalogue des FRERES PERISSE, Imprimeurs-libraires, rue Mercière, n°15 à Lyon.

  4. (tp) Bibliotheque de Lyon.

Paris (11 copies)

(# 18.), 104

Conservatoire national des arts et métiers

4 Y 19; B-State; Binding: Contemporary calf.


  1. (tp v) stamp Ex Bibl. Couvent. Et. CoIl. Regii Carmelit. Paris.

(# 19.), 106

Institut de France

M 144A; S-State; Binding: Parchment. A few annotations.


  1. Jérôme Lalande (1732–1807).

(# 20.)

Bibliothèque interuniversitaire scientifique de Jussieu

02.5 NEW 87 Fonds spécifique: FIJD; S-State.

(# 21.)

Bibliothèque nationale de France, Arsenal

4- S- 2821 < Ex. 1 >; S-State; Binding: Contemporary speckled calf. A few annotations.


  1. Exlibris of the Convent of the des Blancs-Manteaux in Paris Monast. BM Albo Mantellorum ord. Sti Benedicti Cong. S. Mauri, ex dono Gentil 1713.

  2. Confiscated during the French Revolution.

(# 22.)

Bibliothèque nationale de France, Arsenal

4- S- 2821 < Ex. 2>; S-State; Binding: Contemporary speckled calf. A few annotations.


  1. Autograph on pastedown Monsieur Mauriceau.

(# 23.), 107

Bibliothèque nationale de France, Tolbiac

RES M- V- 236; B-State; Binding: Contemporary, mottled brown calf. A few annotations.


  1. (tp) Early eighteenth century autograph L. T. Corfrii Maj., crossed out. Stamped with his coat of arms. Lambert Friedrich von Corfey (1668–1733).

  2. (tp) handwritten ex-libris Collegii Coloniensis Societatis Jesu 1715.

  3. The copy was seized in Köln, Germany, during the Revolution and entered into the Bibliothèque nationale between 1792 and 1803.

(# 24.), 108

Bibliothèque nationale de France, Tolbiac

RES M- V- 237; B-State; Binding: Contemporary, marbled brown calf. No annotations.


  1. Stamp of Bibliothèque royale (pre-1724).

(# 25.)

Institut Catholique de Paris, Bibliothèque de Fels

Divers 129; B—State.

(# 26.), 105

Observatoire de Paris

Fonds spécifique: CP; B-State; Binding: Mottled calf. A few annotations.


  1. Bestowed by Edmond Halley on Jean-Dominique Cassini (1625–1712): (fl v facing the tp): Spectatissimo domino Dno Joh. Dominico Cassino grati animi tessarum humillime offert Edm. Halley.

  2. Ex-libris of Cassini (III or IV?).

  3. The copy entered the collections of the Observatory c. 1785, when the library was founded.

(# 27.)

Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève

4 R 779 INV 921 FA; B-State; Binding: Calf.


  1. Stamp of the Abbey Sainte-Geneviève; ex-libris dated 1753.

(# 28.), 103

Bibliothèque de la Sorbonne

RRA 4= 164 Salle de reserve; S-State; Binding: Contemporary calf. No annotations.


  1. Bookplate of the Jesuit College of Paris, College Louis-le-Grand (1762–1793); bought from an annuity bequeathed by Nicolas Fouquet (1615–1680).

  2. Stamp of the College Louis-le-Grand.

  3. Stamp of the Military Academy Library in Paris (1798/1802).


(# 29.)

Université de Strasbourg

H111605; B-State; Binding: Parchment binding. Heavily annotated.


  1. Owned by Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire de Strasbourg before it was transferred to its present location.


(# 30.)

Médiathèque Jacques Chirac

Fonds ancien r.9.1634.



(# 31.), 110 & 112

Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (present location unknown)

4"" Mv 7863: R.


  1. The copy belonged to the Rara Collection. In 1942 it was deposited in Castle Gauernitz in Saxony and then taken to Russia.


(# 32.)

Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Bonn

O 4′ 313/1; S-State; Binding: Contemporary leather. A few annotations.


  1. Stamp Acad. Duisb. on the top edge: Bibliothek der Duisburger Akademie, before 1717.

  2. Transferred to the newly founded University of Bonn in 1818.


(# 33.)

Landesbibliothek Coburg

E I 4/52; S–State; Binding: Brown leather. Heavily annotated.

Dillingen an der Donau

(# 34.)

Studienbibliothek Dillingen

Mag/IX 994; S–State; Binding: parchment. No annotations.


  1. Maurus Kremp, 1716 (d. 1721), a Benedictine monk and professor of mathematics in Salzburg.

  2. Elchingen Benedictine Abbey.

  3. The library of the Abbey was transfered to the present owner at the beginning of the nineteenth century.


(# 35.)

Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden

38.8.8689; S-State; Binding: Vellum. No annotations.


  1. Pastedown Ex libris von Carl u. August Herzog v. Braunschweig-Oels. Purchased in 1818 from the Gunthersche[n] Bibliothek incl. der aus der Vorcadeschen Bibliotheck angeschafften Bücher.

  2. Received as a gift in 1964.


Saxon State and University Library Dresden (present location unknown)

(# 36.)



  1. Bought in 1764 from the Library of Count Heinrich von Bünau (1697–1762).

  2. Declared as lost during WWII. Sold in 2010 by Amor di Libro.


(# 37.)

University Library Freiburg (present location unknown)

T 1347; S-State.


  1. Missing since 1988; withdrawn from the collection on 17.11. 1992.


(# 38.)

Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek

4 BIBL UFF 33; S-State; Binding: Contemporary leather. No annotations.


  1. Bookplate: Ex Libris / Bibliothecae / D. Zach. Conr. ab Uffenbach. M.F. Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach (1683–1734).


(# 39.)

Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg Carl von Ossietzky

Scrin A/120; S-State; Binding: Vellum. A few annotations.


  1. Bookplate on pastedown of Emil J.H. Wolff (1879–1952).


(# 40.), 111

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Bibliothek – Niedersächsische Landesbibliothek

N-A 1519; S-State; Binding: Contemporary parchment. A few annotations.


  1. (fl) Autograph Gerardus Abbas Luccensis. Gerhard Walter Molanus (1633–1722)

  2. Acquired by the present owner in about 1728.


(# 41.)

Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg

83 H 582; S-State; Binding: Half leather. No annotations.


  1. Heidelberg Jesuit College 1753.

  2. Stamp of the Großzerzogliche Sternwarte Mannheim.

  3. Stamp of the Sternwarte Karsruhe.

  4. Stamp of the Landessternwarte Heidelberg Königstuhl.

  5. Transferred in 1983 to the present location.


(# 42.)

Thüringer Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek

4 Phys. II, 48/1; S-State; Binding: Vellum. No annotations.


  1. Christian Wilhelm Büttner (1716–1801).

  2. Acquired by the Jena Castle Library.

  3. Merged c. 1820 with the Jena University Library.


(# 43.)

Karlsruher Institut für Technologie

I A 2; S-State; Binding: Half-leather. No annotations.


  1. Stamp Physik-Cabinet Polytechnikum Carlsruhe.


(# 44.)

Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig

Astron.194; S-State; Binding: Contemporary half-leather. No annotations.


  1. Entered the library before 1810.


(# 45.)

Stadtbibliothek Magdeburg

N 120; S-State; Binding: Vellum. No annotations.


  1. (1st fl) Friedrich Michaëlis.

  2. Royal Medical Library Magdeburg.


(# 46.)

Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

Rar. 1931; S-State; Binding: Leather.


  1. (1st fl v) Clarissimo Rittero in amicitiae suae memoriam D.D.D. Geißler. Gothae II. Mart. MDCCCII.


(# 47.)

Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Münster

M+4 700; S-State; Binding: Contemporary vellum.


  1. Acquired by the Jesuit College library in Münster in 1768, (pastedown) Kostet 30 Stüber.

  2. Nineteenth-century library stamp of the Bibliotheca Paulina, predecessor of the University Library, Münster.


(# 48.)

Universitätsbibliothek Potsdam

27 A .000646; S–State; Binding: calf. No annotations.


  1. Autograph M.D. Johrenius (1703). Martin Daniel Johren (d. 1718), a profesor of physics in Frankfurt an der Oder.

  2. (tp v) stamp of the Bibliothek des Joachimsthalschen Gymnasium.

  3. (tp v) stamp of the Brandenburgische Landeshochschule – Mathematisches Seminar.

  4. (tp v) stamp of the Universität Potsdam Universitätsbibliothek.


(# 49.)

Landesbibliothek Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Günther Uecker

Ch 450; S-State; Binding: Contemporary vellum. A few annotations.


  1. Stamp Gymnasium Fridericianum in Schwerin.

  2. Autograph on (fl opposite the tp) C. G. A[ch?]mann?

  3. Entered the library c. 1886.


(# 50.)

Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek

8° XV 89; S-State; Binding: Vellum. No Annotations.


  1. Konrad Samuel Schurzfleisch (1641–1708). Entered the co

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