London: printed for Sam. Smith, and Benj. Walford, Printers to the Royal Society, 1704. First edition. Bound in full contemporary English calf, with slight leather repairs at the head and tail of the spine and the corners, otherwise a remarkably fresh and lovely copy. Internally Fine. Housed in a custom slipcase with chemise. Quarto (pages 245 x 185 mm), collating: [iv] 144; 211 [1, errata], title in red and black, complete with 19 folding engraved plates.
"All previous philosophers and mathematicians had been sure that white light is pure and simple, regarding colours as modifications or qualifications of the 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 re-compounded at will" (PMM 172). Of this important discovery, Newton would later claim, "I was in the prime of my age for invention." As it turned out, the experiments Newton conducted incited controversy among his scientific peers; and while the book was completed in 1676, he deferred publication until after the death of his most vocal critic, Robert Hooke. Upon its release, the Opticks ushered in a new age of modern wave theory, and it laid the groundwork for our current understanding of how light is emitted and perceived.
PMM 172. (Item #2582)