Eric Chaim Kline, Bookseller

Eric Chaim Kline, Bookseller

La Chronologie des Anciens Royaumes Corrigee (The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended)

Paris: G. Martin [et al.], 1728. First French Edition. Hardcover. Quarto. [40], 416, [4: table, approbation; errata]pp. 3 folding engraved plans of the Temple of Solomon. Contemporary calf; spine with raised bands, elaborately tooled in gilt, with morocco lettering piece; blue silk ribbon marker. Upper joint wearing (but cords holding fast). Text lightly embrowned with occasional (mostly marginal) foxing and smudges. Library stamp at title, call number at top margin of the preface. A good, amply-margined copy, with crisp plates.

Collation: a-e4 (e4 as title), A-3G2 (= 230 leaves).

First French edition of the complete work, translated by François Granet. The English edition was the first to appear in 1728, the year after its author’s death, and is surprisingly characteristic of the direction in which Newton’s musings tended, especially in his later years. Indeed, the thoughts of the scientist whose theories transformed the modern conception of the physical universe were from the outset focused on theological and chronological/eschatological concerns: “All of Newton’s studies were animated by one overwhelming desire, to know God’s will through His works in the world” (Manuel). “Some time between 1705 and 1710 he returned to the subject he had largely ignored for two decades, and theology formed the principal staple of Newton’s intellectual life from that time until his death”. The Chronology ultimately derives from a Latin manuscript penned by Newton while he was a young don in Cambridge. “The most radical of his theological endeavours,” the Theologiae gentilis origines philosophicae contained speculations which Newton did not think it politic to share with the princess of Wales, who in the mean time had heard about his chronological ideas through the Abbé Antonio Schinella Conti. To safely satisfy the royal curiosity Newton prepared an “Abstract” of the manuscript which consisted of little more than a list of dates. In his later years, Newton transformed the original Latin version into an English manuscript with the intent of obscuring its radical thrust. Meanwhile, a French version of the abstract (later known as the “Short Chronology”) appeared at Paris in 1725, immediately followed by another edition containing a series of refutations by Étienne Souciet (Paris: Rollin, 1726). “Thus Newton was drawn into another controversy, which was not as bitter and not as prolonged as the priority dispute but was sufficiently sharp nevertheless. When he died his heirs found the completed manuscript of the Chronology, which they immediately sold to a publisher for £350” (R. S. Westfall, in: ODNB). g to g+. Item #52078

Full title and imprint: La Chronologie des Anciens Royaumes Corrigée. A laquelle on a joint une Chronique abregée, qui contient ce qui s'est passé anciennement en Europe, jusqu'à la conquête de la Perse par Alexandre le Grand. Traduite de l'Anglois de M. le Chevalier Isaac Newton. A Paris, ruë S. Jacques, Gabriel Martin [et al.] MDCCXXVIII.

References: Gray (2nd ed.) 313; F. E. Manuel, The Religion of Isaac Newton (Oxford, 1974), p.103. See, as well, R. Markley, Fallen Languages (Ithaca, NY, 1990) on the present work and Newton’s theology generally.

Provenance and annotations: Stamp of the Acadamy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia at title. An engraving of Newton, cropped from the frontispiece of a 1715 edition of the Deutsche Acta eruditorum is laid in, with his dates of birth and death added in manuscript.

Price: $950.00

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