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Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 11:35 GMT
Thieves take rare Newton book
Principia
The Principia is an historic piece of scientific writing

Thieves have stolen a rare first edition of Isaac Newton's Principia from a library in St Petersburg.

Principis or "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica" was published in 1687 and is one of the most influential books ever published. In it, Newton formulated his three laws of motion and his law of gravity.

The St Petersburg volume was taken from the reading room of Russia's National Library on the 6th November. An investigation is underway.

Museum officials are uncertain if it was an opportunistic theft or if the rare book was stolen to order.

Black market

Principia is without question one of history's most famous books. Newton's three laws of motion and his theory of gravitation formed the basis for the scientific revolution of the past few centuries.

The first edition was produced in 1687, only "about 250 copies" were ever printed. Two other editions of the work were produced in Newton's lifetime.

Of those 250 original copies, it is estimated that about 200 still exist with 70 of them in US libraries.

In recent years, the cost of Newton's original work has risen considerably with copies of the Principia reaching in excess of 200,000 on the open market.

Following a spate of thefts of rare scientific books from libraries and museums in Europe, there has been speculation that some of them may be being stolen for a growing black market in such treasures.

See also:

23 Oct 02 | Entertainment
08 Oct 01 | Education
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