"THE FIRST AND GREATEST CLASSIC OF MODERN ECONOMIC THOUGHT": FIRST TWO-VOLUME EDITION OF WEALTH OF NATIONS, 1785, ATTRACTIVELY BOUND IN CONTEMPORARY TREE CALF BOARDS
SMITH, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Dublin: Printed for W. Colles, et al., 1785. Two volumes. Octavo, contemporary full tree calf rebacked and recornered in brown calf, green morocco spine labels, marbled endpapers. $4800.
Second octavo edition—the first in only two volumes—of Smith's landmark work on the individual's right to the free exercise of economic activity, "the first and greatest classic of modern economic thought" (PMM 221), most attractive copy in contemporary tree calf boards.
Smith's Wealth of Nations was an immediate success when first published, and four additional editions came out during Smith's lifetime. The 1776 first edition is exceptionally rare. "The tone of irreverent skepticism with which it describes the motives of men and governments has influenced the style of economic discourse to the present day… The historical importance of the Wealth of Nations is surpassed by no other economic book… Smith, for the first time, put together the body of economic knowledge that can still be recognized as an early form of what today may be called mainstream economics… There is little in Jean-Baptiste Say, Robert Malthus, David Ricardo, and John Stuart Mill that is not, more or less directly, an elaboration of Adam Smith" (Niehans, A History of Economic Theory, 62-72). "After Strahan and Cadell published the third edition of Wealth of Nations in three octavo volumes in 1784, at a price not much different from that of the Dublin three-volume octavo edition of 1776, ten Dublin booksellers responded in 1785 with a cheaper 'fourth edition' in just two octavo volumes. They achieved their goal by placing more than 40 lines and well over 400 words on each page, while closely copying the third London edition in content (including the style of designating the author on the title page)" (Mizuta, 25). Title page owner signatures and armorial bookplate of Charles Dalston Barker, a Newcastle attorney, who later because Charles Dalston Purvis according to the terms of his uncle's will.
Only a few isolated spots of foxing, light wear to binding. A near-fine copy.