First Edition of "the First and Greatest Classic of Modern Economic Thought"
Adam Smith. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of
the Wealth of Nations. In Two Volumes. London:
Printed for W. Strahan; and T. Cadell, 1776.
(Printing and the Mind of Man)
First edition of "the first and greatest classic of modern economic thought" (Printing and the Mind of Man). Two large quarto volumes (Volume I: 10.75 x 8.25 inches; 273 x 210 mm.; Volume II: 10.625 x 8.375 inches; 270 x 212 mm.). [1, title], [1, advertisement], [9, contents], [1, blank], 510; [2, half title (verso blank)], [1, title], [1, errata], 587, [1, advertisements] pages. Signature collation: A4 a2 B-Z4 Aa-Zz4 3A-3T4 (3T4 blank, lacking); [A]2 B-Z4 Aa-Zz4 Aaa-Zzz4 4A-4E4 4F2. Gathering B in Volume I misbound as B1, B3, B2, B4 (pages 1/2, 5/6, 3/4, 7/8). Bound without the final blank leaf in Volume I, but complete with half-title in Volume II (no half-title called for in Volume I). Volume I is tightly bound, but presumably leaves M3, Q1, U3, 2Z3, 3A4, and 3O4 are cancels; leaves D1 and 3Z4 in Volume II are cancels.
A mixed copy, uniformly bound in a French royal binding (a remboîtage) of green morocco, rebacked, with original spines laid down. Covers with gilt triple filet border, with gilt fleurs-de-lis in the corners, and with central gilt arms of Louis XVIII, King of France (1814-1814). Spines elaborately tooled in gilt in compartments with five gilt-decorated raised bands and two new brown letter gilt lettering labels; board edges ruled in gilt; turn-ins decoratively tooled in gilt. Binding lightly rubbed; corners and board edges show wear; turn-ins apparently cut when removing binding from its original occupant. In Volume I, the first three leaves are mounted on stub, with title extended at inner margin; final leaf of text (pages 509/510) mounted on stub and extended at outer margin; title browned at the edge from turn-ins of an earlier binding; small hole in upper corner of E2 (pages 27/28), resulting in loss of pagination; paper flaw upper corner of Ii1 (pages 241/242), affecting pagination; horizontal tear to Tt2 (pages 323/324), neatly repaired; leaves 3P4 (pages 479/480) and 3Q1 (pages 481/482) adhered to one another; marginal tear in gutter of 3T2 (pages 507/508); a few additional tiny marginal tears; occasional foxing, heavier at beginning and end. Pale blue ink marginal note on page 311 of Volume I, offset onto page 310. In Volume II, the first and last leaves are browned; the first seventeen gatherings (through page 130 or so) with upper corner restored (and with possible dampstaining); some additional leaves scattered throughout with apparent restoration or repairs to upper corner and/or outer edge; a few small stains. Faint early ink signature on title-page of Volume II: "Ex Lib: John: Shaw Stuart." A good copy, in an interesting and attractive binding, of this important work.
ESTC T96668; Goldsmith 11392; Grolier, 100 English, 57; Kress 7621; Printing and the Mind of Man 221; Rothschild 1897; Sabin 82302.
Adam Smith (1723-1790) spent ten years in the writing and perfecting of The Wealth of Nations. "The book succeeded at once, and the first edition was exhausted in six months...Whether it be true or not, as Buckle said, that the 'Wealth of Nations' was, 'in its ultimate results, probably the most important that had ever been written'...it is probable that no book can be mentioned which so rapidly became an authority both with statesmen and philosophers" (D.N.B.).
"The history of economic theory up to the end of the nineteenth century consists of two parts: the mercantilist phase which was based not so much on a doctrine as on a system of practice which grew out of social conditions; and the second phase which saw the development of the theory that the individual had the right to be unimpeded in the exercise of economic activity. While it cannot be said that Smith invented the latter theory...his work is the first major expression of it. He begins with the thought that labour is the source from which a nation derives what is necessary to it. The improvement of the division of labour is the measure of productivity and in it lies the human propensity to barter and exchange...Labour represents the three essential elements-wages, profit and rent-and these three also constitute income. From the working of the economy, Smith passes to its matter-'stock'-which compasses all that man owns either for his own consumption or for the return which it brings him. The Wealth of Nations ends with a history of economic development, a definitive onslaught on the mercantile system, and some prophetic speculations on the limits of economic control...The Wealth of Nations is not a system, but as a provisional analysis it is complete convincing. The certainty of its criticism and its grasp of human nature have made it the first and greatest classic of modern economic thought" (Printing and the Mind of Man).
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