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MARX, Karl (1818-1883). Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Oekonomie. Volume 1. Hamburg: Otto Meissner, 1867.
MARX, Karl (1818-1883). Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Oekonomie. Volume 1. Hamburg: Otto Meissner, 1867.
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SMITH, Adam (1723-1790). Autograph letter signed (‘Adam Smith’) to [his publisher] William Strahan, Kirkaldy, 13 November 1776.

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SMITH, Adam (1723-1790). Autograph letter signed (‘Adam Smith’) to [his publisher] William Strahan, Kirkaldy, 13 November 1776.

One page, 327 x 204mm. Integral address panel, addressed to Strahan at New Street, Shoe Lane, London; Smith’s signet seal on red wax (seal tear causing loss).

On David Hume and the publication of The Wealth of Nations. The letter originally enclosed Smith’s remarkable account of the last months of his close friend David Hume, and Smith refers to this in his opening, ‘the small addition which I propose to make to the account which our late invaluable friend left of his own life’. Smith goes on to discuss his income from The Wealth of Nations, which had been published earlier that year: ‘I have received three hundred pounds of the copy money of the first edition of my book. But as I got a good number of copies, to make presents of, from Mr Cadell, I do not exactly know what balance may be due to me. I should, therefore, be glad he would send me the account … / With regard to the next edition my present opinion [is] that it should be printed in four vol: octavo; and I would propose that it should be printed at your expense, and that we should divide the profits. Let me know if this is agreeable to you’. Smith concludes by sending his mother’s good wishes to Strahan’s family, and a postscript discusses his arrangements for his next visit to town.

Smith was a close friend of David Hume, and the manuscript to which he refers in the present letter is his remarkable account of Hume’s last months, in which he places great emphasis on his friend’s equanimity in the face of death, with a notable absence of any Christian references. Hume had died on 25 August 1776, leaving a brief autobiography, ‘My Own Life’, which was published by Strahan in the following year, with Smith’s account as an appendix. The first edition of The Wealth of Nations had been published on 9 March 1776; the second edition followed early in 1778, though in the event it was, like the first, a quarto edition in two volumes, rather than the four octavo volumes suggested by Smith here. Smith’s discussion in the present letter is important to our understanding of the financial arrangements around both editions. The reference to Smith’s mother, Margaret, is also not without interest: his father had died before his birth, and Smith’s relationship with his mother was a notably close one. The location of this letter was unknown to the editors of The Correspondence of Adam Smith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), whose text is based on the one published in John Rae’s Life of 1895.

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