"IN POLITICAL ECONOMY I THINK SMITH'S WEALTH OF NATIONS THE BEST BOOK EXTANT" (THOMAS JEFFERSON): 1791 EDITION OF WEALTH OF NATIONS WITH 1792 EDITION OF HIS THEORY OF MORAL SENTIMENTS, THE FIRST APPEARANCE OF THE "INVISIBLE HAND," RARELY FOUND TOGETHER, EXCEPTIONAL IN SPLENDID CONTEMPORARY TREE CALF
SMITH, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. London: Printed for A. Strahan, and T. Cadell, 1791. WITH: The Theory of Moral Sentiments. London / Edinburgh: A. Strahan, T. Cadell / W. Creech, J. Bell, 1792. Five volumes. Octavo, contemporary full brown tree calf, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, red and green morocco spine labels.
Splendid set of Smith's Wealth of Nations, the first published after his death, sixth edition—"the first and greatest classic of modern economic thought" (PMM), together with Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, his first book, seventh edition—"Smith himself ranked it above Wealth of Nations"—rarely found together, a memorable five volumes from the library of leading German Neo-Kantian Heinrich Rickert, beautifully bound in contemporary tree calf gilt.
In Wealth of Nations, Smith's often irreverent analysis of "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, 62-72). On publication of the first American edition, not long before this 1791 English edition, Jefferson wrote, "In political economy I think Smith's Wealth Of Nations the best book extant" (Sowerby 3546). "Where the political aspects of human rights had taken two centuries to explore, Smith's achievement was to bring the study of economic aspects to the same point in a single work… the certainty of its criticism and its grasp of human nature have made it the first and greatest classic of modern economic thought" (PMM 221).
This exceptional set also features Smith's first book, Theory of Moral Sentiments, rarely found together with Wealth of Nations. Moral Sentiments is "one of the truly outstanding books in the intellectual history of the world" (Amartya Sen). It laid the foundation on which Wealth of Nations would be built and proposed the theory repeated in the later work: that self-seeking men are often "led by an invisible hand… Smith himself ranked it above Wealth of Nations" (Niehans, 62-69). With Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations Smith created "not merely a treatise on moral philosophy and a treatise on economics, but a complete moral and political philosophy" (Palgrave III, 412-13). They reflect Smith's "attempt to anchor the new science of political economy in a Newtonian universe… there is thus a considerable affinity between the structure of Moral Sentiments and that of Wealth of Nations. Each work is integrated by a great unifying principle… Smith's ethics is one of self-command or self-reliance, just as is his laissez faire economics" (Spiegel, Growth of Economic Thought, 229-231). Smith's Wealth of Nations was an immediate success when first published in 1776, and four additional editions came out during Smith's lifetime; Theory of Moral Sentiments first published in 1759. Bound without half titles. Tribe 41, 44. Wealth: Goldsmiths 14612. Kress B2209. Moral: B2411. Bookplate in each volume of German philosopher Heinrich Rickert, whose writings include Object of Knowledge (1892). "one of his most important works and a milestone in early 20th-century Neo-Kantianism" (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Beautifully bound in contemporary tree calf gilt with Wealth of Nations spines numbered in Roman numerals, Moral Sentiments in Arabic numerals.
Interior generally fresh with light scattered foxing mainly to preliminaries, Moral (II) with small closed tear to initial blank. A beautiful set with a distinctive provenance.