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Christiaan Huygens' Groundbreaking Work on the Wave Theory of Light

Christiaan Huygens. Traite de la lumiere ou sont expliquées les causes de ce qui luy arrive dans la refexion, & dans la refraction... par C.H.D.Z Avec un discours de la cause de la pesanteur. Leiden: Pieter van der Aa, 1690. First edition. Two parts in one (second part with separate title-page). Small quarto. Approximately 7.5 x 5.5 inches. [viii], 180 pages. Illustrated with eighty-nine woodcuts in text as well as woodcut head-pieces and initials. First title-page printed in red and black. Bound in modern quarter brown calf over marbled boards, spine tooled in black and ruled in gilt and black, burgundy gilt morocco lettering label. Some toning to text, second title-page with small marginal repair, ink and perforated stamps to title-pages and a few others (from the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia). A few diagrams trimmed a bit short. A fine copy of this rare and important book. Housed in chemise and quarter red morocco slipcase.

Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) developed his theories on light from 1676-1677, and wrote this book in 1678, but held it from publication until he had a meeting with Sir Isaac Newton in 1689, which inspired him to have this book published. "Light, according to Huygens, is an irregular series of shock waves which proceeds with very great, but finite, velocity through the ether. This ether consists of uniformly minute, elastic particles compressed very close together. Light, therefore, is not an actual transference of matter but rather of a 'tendency to move,' a serial displacement similar to a collision which proceeds through a row of balls... Huygens therefore concluded that new wave fronts originate around each particle that is touched by light and extend outward from the particle in the form of hemispheres..." [DSB]. Norman 1139. Dibner 145.

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Auction Dates
April, 2013
10th Wednesday
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