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“The greatest single contribution to logic that has appeared in the two thousand years since Aristotle” – DSB on Principia Mathematica


Cambridge: University Press, 1910, 1927

Three volumes. Original navy cloth. Volumes 2-3 in the rare original dust jackets. Jacket spines browned with abrasion, front endpapers replaced in vol. 1. A very good set.

FIRST EDITION of vol. 1, second editions of vols. 2-3, in the rare dust jackets.

One of the most ambitious undertakings in the history of science, this work uses a complex new symbolic system in an attempt to prove the logical basis of mathematics from a small set of axioms and the principles of logic. The Principia Mathematica is “the greatest single contribution to logic that has appeared in the two thousand years since Aristotle” (DSB).

In 1898 Alfred North Whitehead published the first volume of his Treatise on Universal Algebra and then turned his attention to a proposed second volume, a comparative study of algebras as symbolic structures. In 1900 Whitehead accompanied his star student, Bertrand Russell, to Paris, where they learned of Peano’s new ideography for symbolic logic and saw it as a way to reduce mathematics to its very foundations in philosophical logic. After Bertrand Russell published his Principles of Mathematics in 1903, he planned to give “a completely symbolic account of the assimilation of mathematics to logic in a second volume” (DSB). When Russell and Whitehead saw that their planned second books were practically identical in conception, they decided to collaborate. The magisterial Principia Mathematica was the result.

This set comprises the first edition of vol. 1 (one of only 750 copies) and the second editions of vols. 2-3. “The revisions were done by Russell, although Whitehead was given the opportunity to advise. In addition to the correction of minor errors throughout the original text, changes to the new edition included the inclusion of a new Introduction and three new appendices. (The appendices discuss the theory of quantification, mathematical induction and the axiom of reducibility, and the principle of extensionality respectively)” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

A set of first editions is now a six-figure book. This set, with the first edition of vol. 1 and the second edition of vols. 2-3 in the rare dust jackets, is a worthy alternative.

on consignment