Newton's path-breaking work was almost not published.

A 300-year-old drawing of a flying fish that nearly scuttled Isaac Newton's world-changing opus on modern physics will be showcased in the Royal Society's online picture library, launched on Thursday.

The engraving was first published in 1686 in a lavishly-illustrated book A History of Fishes by John Ray and Francis Willughby, said the prestigious British academy of sciences.

The work was ground-breaking but printing it nearly bankrupted the institution.

“This meant that the society was unable to meet its promise to support the publication of Isaac Newton's masterpiece,” said the Royal Society.

Newton's work, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) sets down the principles of the laws of motion and gravity.

Fortunately, fellow scientist Edmund Halley, then a clerk at the Royal Society, saw the promise in Newton's work and raised the funds for it to be published in 1687.

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