First French edition of Newton’s “Principia Mathematica”, translated by the marquise du Châtelet. Babson 28; Gray 38; Brunet, iv, 49. It is at the beginning of summer 1733 that the affair between Voltaire and the marquise Gabrielle-Emilie du Châtelet started. In her land of Cirey, the marquise devoted herself assiduously to the study of mathematics with two eminent members of the Academy of Sciences, Maupertuis and Clairaut. The end of 1735 was marked by Algarotti’s stay, who was preparing a book: Il Neutonianismo par le dame or interviews with a marquise about Newton’s optic. In 1736 Voltaire left for Holland bringing to book dealers the manuscript of the Éléments pour la philosophie de Newton, inspired by Algarotti’s work and of which he paid tribute to the marquise. After having written for his son’s education Les Institutions de physique in which she dedicated a large part to the account of Leibniz’ philosophy, the marquise imposed on herself the very arduous work of a French translation of Newton’s Principia Mathématica that she wanted to be followed with an algebraic comment entirely reviewed by Clairaut. Undertaken in 1745, this translation is Madame du Chatelet’s great work of her life. During five years she worked on this translation, supervised by Clairaut, and had her heart set on commenting and deepening the English physicist’s work.
Alexis-Claude Clairaut was indeed closely linked to Voltaire and the marquise du Châtelet. Actually he had written for the marquise the Éléments de géométrie.
It was the last work written by the marquise “to which she worked relentlessly until her death in 1749”. It was published only 10 years later and for posterity. Voltaire wrote, in the foreword, a “Éloge historique de Madame du Châtelet” of whom he wrote the epitaph: “the universe has lost the sublime Emilie. She loved life’s pleasures, the arts, the truth, the gods by giving her their soul and genius had only kept immortality for themselves”.
“Gabrielle Emilie de Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise du Chastelet, was a pupil of Clairaut, under whose supervision she translated the ‘Principia, forming the first part of the above, from the 1726 edition. The second part consists of commentary extracted from Clairant”. (Gray, Bibliography of the Works of Isaac Newton, n°38).
The edition also presents, following, the first edition of “la solution analytique des principaux problèmes qui concernent le système du monde” written by Madame du Châtelet under the direction of the mathematician Alexis-Claude Clairaut.
This last part, very technical, is inspired by Clairaut’s works; the author evokes hypothesis that were missed by Newton, such as the one about the Earth’s axial tilt, confirmed later by Laplace; she also sums up very clearly Daniel Bernoulli’s works about tides.
Madame du Châtelet’s work still remains a reference today.
This edition is illustrated with 14 folding plates picturing hundreds of mathematical figures and diagrams.
Very pure copy of this precious and extremely rare scientific first edition, preserved in contemporary vellum binding.