We have spent several months working on a desire. The desire to have a new edition of Isaac Newton’s Principia in our hands that is on a par with the importance of the text and of modern editorial design. To put it back on our shelves so that we can leaf through it from time to time and feel the pages beneath our fingers.
An opportunity has now arisen. Taking advantage of the fact that the original publication is to celebrate its 330th anniversary in 2017, we wish to republish it with an editorial design that pays attention to every last detail.
The translation being used is the 1st American edition, translated by Andrew Motte. Carefully revised and corrected by N. W. Chittenden.
We talk about mathematics, we talk about physics, but we also talk about design, and we have to see, feel, touch and smell this aspect on all sides of the book. The aim was to provide a minimalist aesthetic in juxtaposition to the complexity of the subject. “The cleaner the page, the easier it is to understand and read.” This is the main premise that I have adopted to tackle this new project. But what can be done with all this content that has little rhythm and creates monotony throughout the different pages?
Curious, enigmatic, serious, organised and clean; these are the five aspects that the design of the book Principia responds to.
The graphics of the covers are clean and pure with very little information, leading the reader to think “what is this book hiding?”, reaching a point that is rare and unusual in scientific books. The Greek letters alpha, beta and gamma emphasise this enigmatic aspect of the covers.
To show its serious side, we have gone for an absence of colour, working only with two direct colours, petrol blue and coral orange, which are two very bold colours that complement each other well.
The geometrical graphic grid has been designed based on the three recurring elements in the content: the text, notes in the margin and graphics. These three elements have marked out a flexible, organised and geometrical graphic grid that is adapted to all sections. Wide margins have been given to counter the density of the printed area. The inside covers of each section have a colour background to quickly indicate the beginning of each section, whilst the index pages are found in the middle of each book in a higher weight paper to force it open at this point.
A key aspect of any publication is the choice of typography. For this project we have chosen The Serif, a typeface designed by Lucas de Groot in 1944. It is a Roman serif font with high readability thanks to its well-proportioned forms. It has low contrast, or in other words, the difference between thick and thin strokes is not very pronounced. And thanks to the high x-height, I have been able to work with reduced line spacing.
The Serif family has a wide variety of weights that help us add texture and variety to the content.
The binding is what really sets this book apart. We wanted its “wrapping” to be visually appealing and different. Therefore, we have opted for visible binding that leaves the spine bare, displaying a part of the books that usually remains hidden. This type of binding also helps us when reading the book, as it allows us to open it wider.
Principia consists of three main chapters: the first, The motion of bodies; the second, The movement of bodies through resisting mediums and the third, The system of the world. Due to the large amount of information, we have chosen to divide the three chapters into three books (physically speaking). This option allows the reader to better understand how the book Principia is structured and, in turn, makes it more practical to consult, as each book is easier to handle.
Paper is related to the sense of touch that is so beloved of book lovers. We have chosen paper designed for offset printing, Munken Polar, where the crisp white tone and its smooth uncoated surface provides an exclusive and natural feel. The inside pages are 100 grams to give the content more body, and the covers are 260 grams.
One last detail is the dry embossing on each of the covers of the three books with the letters alpha, beta and gamma, bringing a touch of elegance. This is how we wanted this book to be valued: it is a collector’s book and, therefore, people will treat it as such, with care and sensitivity.
This new edition of the book Principia is intended to be a point of reference for science books that emphasise good design.