It is well-known that Newton's Principia was published by Halley at his own expense, and the story of writing, editing, printing, correction and proofreading is well described in Newton's biographies. However I cannot find some important details:

  1. How many copies of the first edition were printed?

  2. For what price they were sold?

  3. Did Halley get the proceeds from the sales? If not, who did? Newton? Royal Society?

Can anyone help me to find this information?

EDIT. Since I asked this question, I found some relevant information in the article of B. Cohen, supplementing my own copy of Principia (1999 English translation:-)

A. N. Munby estimated the size of the first edition at some 300 or 400 copies, but the number has recently been increased to perhaps 500. Whiteside recons that granting this larger size of the edition, Halley would not have suffered financially by paying the printing costs and would even have made not less than 10 pounds in pocket for all his time and trouble.

D. T. Whiteside, The prehistory of Principia from 1664 to 1786, Notes and records of the Royal Society, 45 (1991) 11-61.


1 Answer 1


Some info from :

  • I.B. Cohen, Introduction to Newton's Principia, 1978, page 138 :

No one knows for certain just how large the edition of the Principia was. Rouse Ball reckoned it to be some 250 copies [Ball (1893), Essay, p.67], but A.N.L.Munby held it to be more nearly 300-400 [Munby (1952), "Distribution of the first edition", p.37].

The price to the trade was to be 6 shillings in quires (or sheets) (reduced to 5 shillings if payment was in cash or "at some short time"), but 9 shillings "bound in Calves leather or lettred".

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I already found some information (and inserted it in my question), in a later article of the same Cohen, A guide to Newton's Principia, 1999. $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2016 at 15:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.