Essay on the Principle of Population

Thomas Robert MALTHUS   |   Gilbert R. REDGRAVE

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MALTHUS, Thomas Robert. An Essay on the Principle of Population; Or, A View of Its Past and Present Effects on Human Happiness; with An Inquiry into Our Prospects Respecting the Future Removal or Mitigation of the Evils Which It Occasions. London: John Murray, 1817. Three volumes. Octavo, contemporary full diced brown calf rebacked with original elaborately gilt-decorated spines laid down, burgundy morocco spine labels.

Scarce 1817 edition of a foundational work in modern economics, from the library of renowned bibliographer G.R. Redgrave, co-author of the Short Title Catalogue (STC), featuring his key notation in Volume I: “This is the best edition of this famous work as it contains much addiitonal matter, and many alterations at the hand of the author,” handsomely bound in contemporary calf.

“Malthus was one of the founders of modern economics. His Essay was originally the product of a discussion on the perfectibility of society with his father, [who] urged him to publish. Thus the first edition (published anonymously) was essentially a fighting tract, but later editions were considerably altered and grew bulkier as Malthus defended his views against a host of critics… The Essay was highly influential in the progress of thought in early 19th-century Europe [and] his influence on social policy was considerable… Both Darwin and Wallace clearly acknowledged Malthus as a source of the idea of ‘the struggle for existence” (PMM 251). Following the initial 1798 edition, “in 1803 Malthus published under his own name the stout quarto that embodies his mature views of his subject. The author confesses in his preface that he had taken too gloomy a view of human nature in his first essay… The achievement of Malthus was the exposition of the theory of population; and his name has been associated so closely with this theory that, like Darwin’s, it has added a new adjective to the language of civilized peoples” (Palgrave II:670-1). Fifth edition: “with important additions.” Kress B6974. Garrison & Morton 1693. Goldsmiths 21761. From the library of highly respected bibliophile Gilbert R. Redgrave, with his bookplates. Redgrave co-authored with Pollard The Short Title Catalogue of English Books, 1475-1640 (STC), a foundational bibliography. The son of artist Richard Redgrave, Gilbert was also a major art critic, architect and author. As is evidenced by this seminal work, Redgrave often wrote learned bibliographical notes in important volumes from his library. With his date of “London. 1885,” Redgrave writes in the blank fly leaf of Volume I his informed notation on this key 1817 edition: “This is the best edition of this famous work, as it contains much additional matter, and many alterations at the hand of the author. In order to complete the previous editions, four in number, the added matter was published as an extra volume. The replies to M. Weyland and M. Graham in the Appendix [III:388-428] are important. The work passed through six editions in the author’s lifetime, viz. 1798, 1803, 1806, 1807, 1817 and 1826.” Minor marginalia to front pastedowns.

Interiors generally fresh with light scattered foxing, some expert restoration and age-wear to binding. A most desirable extremely good copy, scarce in contemporary boards.

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