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Rare Isaac Newton first edition discovered in library on Corsica

With a bit of help from Napoleon's brother.

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Isaac Newton's own first edition copy of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. 

Wikimedia Commons

On the French island of Corsica, hidden away on the high shelves of a library founded by one of Napoleon Bonaparte's brothers, a first edition of Isaac Newton's world-changing Principia Mathematica has been quietly waiting since its 17th century publication. And this week, Agence France-Presse reports, conservation director Vannina Schirinsky-Schikhmatoff was the one to discover it.  

"I found the Holy Grail in the main room, hidden in the upper shelves," Schirinsky-Schikhmatoff, who works at the Fesch public heritage library, told AFP on Wednesday. "The cover has a little damage but inside it's in excellent condition -- this is the cornerstone of modern mathematics." 

First published in 1687, Newton's groundbreaking treatise on physics, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) details the three laws of motion, and became the basis for a scientific understanding of gravity and motion. 

Schirinsky-Schikhmatoff noted that an original edition in Latin, like the one she just discovered, sold for $3.7 million at a Christie's auction in 2016. The book was later published in English translation, AFP noted.