[MALTHUS, Thomas Robert (1766-1834)]. An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it affects the Future Improvement of Society. With Remarks on the Speculation of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, and other Writers. London: for J. Johnson, 1798.
8o (208 x 124 mm). Printed on blue tinted paper. (Some intermittent spotting, A3-A8 a bit loose.) Contemporary tree calf (rebacked to style, corners a bit scuffed); quarter morocco slipcase.
"THE BEST ARGUMENTS FOR THE PERFECTIBILITY OF MAN, ARE DRAWN FROM A CONTEMPLATION OF THE GREAT PROGRESS THAT HE HAS MADE FROM THE SAVAGE STATE, AND THE DIFFICULTY OF SAYING WHERE HE IS TO STOP" (Malthus, Preface)
FIRST EDITION OF THIS INFLUENTIAL WORK ON POPULATION GROWTH. A rebuttal of William Godwin's (1756-1836) Utopian views as expressed in an essay in his Inquirer. It was "written on the spur of the occasion, and from the few materials which were within my reach in a country situation. The only authors from whose writings I had deduced the principle, which formed the main argument of the essay, were Hume, Wallace, Dr. Adam Smith, and Dr. Price; and my object was to apply it to try the truth of those speculations on the perfectibility of man and society, which at that time excited a considerable portion of publick attention" (Malthus, Preface to the second edition, 1803).
"The central idea of the essay -- and the hub of Malthusian theory -- was a simple one. The population of a community, Malthus suggested, increases geometrically, while food supplies increase only arithmetically. If the natural increase in population occurs the food supply becomes insufficient and the size of the population is checked by "misery" -- that is the poorest sections of the community suffer disease and famine. Malthus recognized two other possible checks to population expansion: first "vice" -- that is, homosexuality, prostitution and abortion (all totally unacceptable to Malthus); and second "moral restraint" -- the voluntary limitation of the production of children by the postponement of marriage" (PMM). Malthus's Essay, which began as the outcome of a discussion with his father on the perfectibility of society, was highly influential in the progress of thought in early 19th-century Europe. It exerted a great influence upon socio-economic theorists from Ricardo to Mill to Marx, and inspired Quetelet's and Verhulst's precise statistical studies of population growth. Both Darwin and Wallace acknowledged Malthus as a source of the idea of "the struggle for existence." Garrison-Morton 1693; Kress B.3693; Norman 1431; PMM 251.