First Edition of the First Volume of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations
Adam Smith. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of
the Wealth of Nations. London: Printed for W.
Strahan; and T. Cadell, 1776. First edition. Quarto (volume I
only). Approximately 11. x 8.25 inches. , 510 pages. Bound
without final blank (no half-title called for in volume I),
otherwise complete. Bound in contemporary full calf, ruled in gilt.
Rebacked in later brown morocco, gilt, newer endleaves. Title-page
mounted onto a stub, final leaf with outer margin restored, page 27
with a hole in the page number (number totally missing), page, 241
with a similar hole, but most of page number is still present,
gutter facing page. 509 cracked, some offsetting to title-page,
final few leaves dampstained, some minor foxing or thumbsoiling
throughout. A few inoffensive pencil notes. Still, a good copy.
[Together With:] John Neville Keynes (1852-1949, British
economist and father of John Maynard Keynes). Autograph Letter
Signed. Cambridge, 8, January, 1895. Addressed to Professor
Laughlin. Three and one-half octavo pages on one quarto folded
leaf. Some toning, a few creases, else near fine. In this letter,
Keynes thanks Laughlin for an apparent job offer in the United
States, but he politely declines. This letter raises the
tantalizing possibility - what if he had accepted and John Maynard
Keynes had been raised in the United States!
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).
Grolier, 100 English, 57. Kress 7261. Printing and the Mind of Man 221. Rothschild 1897.
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