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    Scarce Limited First Edition of Necker's Masterpiece, One of an Unspecified Number Printed for Royal Use Only

    Jacques Necker. Compte Rendu au Roi. Paris: De l'Imprimerie du Cabinet du Roi, 1781. Limited first edition of Necker's magnum opus, one of an unspecified number intended for royal use only. Quarto. With folding chart and two splendid hand-colored folding maps of France. Contemporary full mottled brown calf, elaborately gilt-decorated spine, raised bands. Minor edge wear to the book. Spine ends somewhat frayed. Minor scattered foxing. Overall, a near fine copy of this foundational work in economics and world history. From a private collection from New Orleans.

    More Information: 1777, when Swiss-born economist and financier Jacques Necker was appointed the acting French Controleur-general, he was greeted "as a banking wizard ... invested with the sort of miraculous powers associated with the electrical Franklin." Faced with the burden of aiding the Americans in their Revolution, Necker proposed a way of funding the "the American policy without incurring all the dire consequences predicted by Turgot [his predecessor]. The question that has raged around Necker's reputation ever since is whether he lived up to these promises." To historians such as Simon Schama, Necker's goal was always "to balance the ordinary revenues and expenditures of the crown. And it was that balance which was reflected in his Compte Rendu au Roi. Its publication in 1781 was itself an event ... It produced, said the Protestant pastor Rabaut Saint-Etienne, 'the effect of sudden light in the midst of darkness." That same year rumors accusing Necker of disguising war debts soon forced his resignation. Yet "Necker never made any pretense of covering up the cost of war debts. The intention of the Compte Rendu ... the first budget made available for wide publication ... was quite different. It was meant to show that as long as, in peacetime, the fixed obligations of the crown could be met from current income, loans taken out for 'extraordinary' purposes such as war might be financed on more advantageous terms than had generally been the case in the second half of the century. To his sound Swiss mind, everything depended on public confidence and credit. With that elusive quantity present, was no reason not to seek funding for foreign and military purposes that were deemed essential by both the government and public opinion. And given the climate of ecstatic support for the American war, there could hardly be any argument with that" (emphasis in original; Citizens, 88-93).

    1788, though still "detested by the court as a Protestant and a bourgeois," Necker was brought back by Louis XVI and appointed Directeur-genera/ desfinances. Although Necker had sacrificed "his private resources to sustain the public credit," the king again ordered his dismissal, this time on July 11, 1789. "The effect of his departure on public opinion was terrific. In the midst of these disturbances the Bastille was taken, and on 29th July, Necker was recalled by the court with the title of Premiere minister des finances. " When, amidst revolutionary tumult, public opinion again veered, Necker was "compelled to leave office and France, this time for ever" (Palgrave III:l4). For a considerable period, his Compte Rendu "became a kind of scapegoat for subsequent Controllers-General." Ultimately, however, the fiscal crisis that fueled the French Revolution is "attributable not to Necker's wartime funding of 530 million livres but to the peacetime loans of his successors, and to their wholesale abandonment of his economies" (emphasis in original; Schama, 92-3). Limited first edition with title page imprint, "De L'Imprimerie du Cabinet du Roi": one of an unspecified number intended for royal use only. Precedes the first trade edition of the same year containing the title page imprint: "De L'Imprimerie Royale." Text in French. Kress B360. Einaudi 4094. Goldsmiths 12183. See Goldsmiths 12184.view shipping information)

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    April, 2014
    2nd Wednesday
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