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    First Edition of Adam Smith's First Book, Establishing His Reputation

    Adam Smith. The Theory of Moral Sentiments. London: Printed for A. Millar, in the Strand; and A. Kincaid and J. Bell, in Edinburgh, 1759. First edition of author's first book. Octavo. [xii], 1-316, [337], 338-551, [1, errata] pages. (Correct collation: OCLC mentions the errors in pagination). Contemporary full calf, expertly rebacked with corners renewed. New red morocco gilt spine label. Endpapers with offsetting from binding. Housed in a custom quarter leather and cloth clamshell box. An attractive, very good copy.

    Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments is drawn from his course of lectures while he was professor of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow. "The work received wide acclaim and so impressed the stepfather of the young duke of Buccleuch that he invited Smith to become the duke's tutor, with the promise of a pension for life...The greater part of the Theory of Moral Sentiments is an account of moral psychology...The mainstay of Smith's moral psychology is sympathy...Smith characterizes the mechanism of sympathy in this way: 'Whatever is the passion which arises from any object in the person principally concerned, an analogous emotion springs up at the thought of this situation, in the breast of every attentive spectator'...Smith argues that if the appearance of grief or joy, for example, arouses similar feelings in us, it is because these feelings suggest to us the general idea of some good or evil that has befallen the person in whom we observe them" (Encyclopedia of Philosophy). "The Theory of Moral Sentiments was published in April 1759 and at once brought Smith something more than local fame. It was hailed by David Hume in typical ironic manner: 'I proceed to tell you the melancholy news', he wrote from London, 'that your book has been very unfortunate: for the public seem disposed to applaud it extremely'" (Mossner, Adam Smith: The Biographical Approach, p. 12).

    Goldsmiths' Library 9537. Higgs 1890. Kress 5815. Rothschild 1895 (third edition). From the James and Deborah Boyd Collection.


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    Auction Dates
    April, 2012
    11th Wednesday
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