ABSTRACT 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’, an estimate that still enjoys currency. 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. Our preliminary census more than doubles the number of identified copies, to 387—suggesting a much larger print run than commonly assumed – as well as encourages us to believe that there existed a wider, and competent, readership of the Principia from the start. The long-standing assumption regarding the recondite nature of Newton's science as presented in the Principia, together with claims concerning the scarcity of the book, brought many scholars to assume that Newton's masterpiece exerted little influence before the 1730s. The new empirical evidence presented in our census enables a reassessment of the early diffusion of the Principia in Europe which, in turn, would necessitate a major refinement of our understanding of the contribution of Newtonianism to Enlightenment science. (shrink)
Volume XXIX/2 of History of Universities contains the customary mix of learned articles and book reviews which makes this publication such an indispensable tool for the historian of higher education. This special issue, guest edited by Alexander Broadie, particularly focuses on Seventeenth-Century Scottish Philosophers and their Philosophy.
Long ago, George Sarton set down criteria for reviewers. In addition to insisting on the need to compose ‘faithful’ reviews, he cautioned against four types of unfit reviewers: the ‘egoist’, the ‘obscure’ reviewer, the one who is noncommittal, and the pedantic critic. Unfortunately, Cohen's review comes short on several counts. Cohen writes that he intends to examine what is ‘new’ in the three books he reviews, and whether the results therein contained are ‘worth learning’. Cohen denies being given to ‘misplaced (...) hero worship’, insisting that his sole aim is to assess whether ‘scholarly novelty’ has been attained. Nevertheless, given his repeated rebuke of the authors under review for ‘failing to refer back to [Richard] Westfall's work’ on Newton – now nearly half a century old – it seems that he grounded his critique principally on Westfall's interpretation. (shrink)