1729, first English language edition of Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, a translation by Andrew Motte – £24,000 at Hansons.

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Posted to auction in Staffordshire from Guernsey and sold to an internet buyer in Germany, a copy of the first English language edition of the most famous scientific book of them all was one of the highlights of an online sale.

In a contemporary full calf binding, this two-volume copy of The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy more than doubled the high estimate when it sold for £24,000 at Hansons (25% buyer’s premium) on October 13.

Half a dozen or so copies of this 1729 translation by Andrew Motte of Newton’s Principia Mathematica, first published in 1687, have made more and the ex-Macclesfield Library copy, sold at £33,000 by Sotheby’s London in 2005, made $90,000 (then £57,325) when it re-surfaced in its New York rooms in 2011.

Up at university


A leaf from John Scott’s manuscript ‘Survey of the University and Colleges of Cambridge’ of 1619 – £4800 at Hansons.

Handsomely bound in morocco gilt in the 19th century was a 44pp manuscript presenting a ‘Survey of the University and Colleges of Cambridge’. Illustrated c.1619 with 38 coloured coats of arms by John Scott and dedicated to Lord Windsor of Bradenham, it made £4800.

The sale included very large number of letters, photographs, etc, relating to royal personages and events of much more recent times, but the day’s regal highlight was something a little earlier.

Taken to £13,000 was a large collection of framed and other photographic portraits produced by Albert L Henderson (1838-1907), who in 1884 had been granted a special royal warrant by Queen Victoria and encouraged to capture moments in the everyday lives of the royal family.

A typewritten (and bound) account by Edward Heron-Allen of a two-week visit made to the front in the closing days of the First World War, in October 1918, made £3000.

The day’s most costly lot was something very different, though very familiar in these rooms. The fourth first of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Hansons has offered in the last year or so (along with many more works by JK Rowling), this one had been sent from Luxembourg for sale and was secured by a Californian bidder at £60,000.

Corpulent cow

A lot that particularly appealed to Hansons’ book specialist Jim Spencer was an extensive archive focused on the ‘Craven Heifer’. This famous prize-winning cow had been taken on a country-wide tour in 1812 that Spencer likened to something from one of PG Wodehouse’s Blandings Castle tales.

In her day England’s fattest-ever cow attracted crowds of spectators, and on the day at auction the lot drew eager bidders, selling at £5500.