In Search Of Principia

Back in 2003, I enjoyed participating in the Distributed Proofreaders project (in which many volunteers share the task of proofreading an e-book before it goes to Project Gutenberg). In a conversation on one of the DP forums, someone remarked that there were no books in PG by Sir Isaac Newton. Being interested in satellites, and knowing what a revered work Newton's Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica (the "Principia") is, I decided to look further into this work, to evaluate what needs to be done to turn it into a PG e-book.

The first task was acquiring the text. Very quickly I discovered that there have been many published versions of Principia; some copyrighted, some partial, and some (which might be suitable for digitizing) public domain and complete. This page summarizes what I found in my search to choose the one most suitable for a PG e-book. The Chittenden text seemed best suited to this. I obtained the 1995 Prometheus printing (paperback) which has most of the sections from Chittenden and is still available; I also obtained a copy of Chittenden itself through inter-library loan.

Update, September 2009: Someone inquired whether I ever completed an e-book. The answer is no: I did scan the text (and still have the images), but just as I was about to start a PGDP project, I found someone else who claimed he was nearly finished with a proofread e-book. Rather than duplicate his work, I stopped at that point. However, Project Gutenberg still does not have an English-translation Principia e-book as of this date, so I don't know if he ever published it. See below for an online site where you can view the Chittenden text (as images).

Known Printings of Principia

Public Domain Printings

Copyrighted Printings

Partial Printings

Other Principia Digitizing Projects

Online Resources

If you have thoughts on Principia I'd love to hear them! Contact information

Last updated Friday, September 4, 2009. Back home.


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