"AMONGST THE FATHERS OF ECONOMIC SCIENCE": SCARCE FIRST EDITION OF SAY'S TREATISE ON POLITICAL ECONOMY
SAY, Jean-Baptiste. Traité d'Économie Politique, ou Simple Exposition de la Manière dont se Forment, se Distribuent, et se Consomment les Richesses. Paris: [Printed by] Crapelet [for] Deterville, 1803. Two volumes. Octavo, contemporary full marbled calf rebacked, raised bands, original red morocco title spine labels, later green morocco volume spine labels, gilt seal of the "Society of Writers to the Signet" on front and rear covers. $15,000.
First edition of this important contribution to the study of market economics, in the original French, in contemporary marbled calf boards.
Say was among the first to divide the field of economics into the areas of production, distribution and consumption, to discuss the role of the entrepreneur, and to incorporate those ideas into a framework of laissez-faire liberalism. Of additional importance was his emphasis on utility as the determinant of value. "Say is usually ranked with Smith and Ricardo amongst the fathers of economic science… He was in the true sense of the word the leader of a school—of the liberal and optimistic school, the influence of which was so great in France… and is even now felt. It is he, more than any other writer, who impressed on political economy the character of a natural science" (Palgrave II, 357). "Say is considered to have brought out the importance of capital as a factor in production more distinctly than the English economists, who unduly emphasized labour" (Ingram). Schumpeter calls his work "the most important of the links in the chain that leads from Cantillon and Turgot to Walras." This important first edition was not published again until Napoleon's first fall in 1814, due to Napoleon's hostility to Say for having shown, in 1804, his unwillingness to sacrifice his convictions for the purpose of furthering Napoleon's designs. The work eventually went through 32 editions and was, with Smith's Wealth of Nations (whose doctrine Say expounded from an early age), the most popular work in economics in the first half of the 19th century. Bound with half titles, and with publisher's folded advertisement leaf at rear of Volume II. Text in French. Goldsmith 23137. Kress C777. Niehans, 110-15. Boards with gilt-tooled centerpiece arms of The Society of Writers to the Signet, Scotland's independent lawyers' association and one of the world's oldest professional organizations. Old shelf label on front pastedown; early ink inscription on front free endpaper of Volume I.
Occasional foxing to text, extremities of contemporary boards expertly restored.