SMITH, Adam (1723-1790). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. London: for W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1776.
2 volumes, 4 (279 x 208mm.) Cancels M3, U3, 2Z3, 3A4, 3O4 in vol. I and half-title and cancels D1 and 3Z4 in vol. II. (Without final blank to vol. I, some light occasional foxing.) Near-contemporary French half calf, flat spine gilt, each volume with two green morocco spine labels (a trifle rubbed, some minute worming at foot of spine to vol. II), modern brown morocco slipcase by A. Lobstein.
FIRST EDITION of 'the first and greatest classic of modern economic thought' (PMM). Smith's other great work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), was the fruit of his lectures on ethical doctrine at Glasgow University. However, the genesis of The Wealth of Nations took place on the Continent following his decision to vacate the chair of moral philosophy and accept a post as tutor to the young Duke of Buccleuch on his visit to France. Their journey began in February 1764. After a short stay in Paris, they moved on to Toulouse for an eighteen month period which Smith used to begin his economic treatise; the pair then returned to Paris, remaining there from Christmas 1765 until October the following year. During this period he made the acquaintance of Quesnay, Turgot, d'Alembert, Morellet, Helvtius, Marmontel and de la Rochefoucault. Teacher and pupil returned to Glasgow in 1766, and it took Smith a further ten years to complete the Wealth of Nations. Only a few months before his own death, Hume wrote to congratulate his friend on producing a work which was so long and so nervously awaited, one showing such 'depth and solidity, and acuteness, and ... so much illustrated by curious facts that it must at last attract the public attention'. The book gave full expression to the physiocratic belief that the individual has the right to be unimpeded in the exercise of economic activity. As PMM states, it 'begins with the thought that labour is the source from which a nation derives what is necessary to it. The improvement of the division of labour is the measure of productivity and in it lies the human propensity to barter and exchange ... Labour represents the three essential elements -- wages, profit and rent -- and these three also constitute income. From the workings of the economy, Smith passes to its matter -- "stock" -- which compasses all that man owns either for his own consumption or the return that it brings him. The Wealth of Nations ends with a history of economic development, a definitive onslaught on the mercantile system, and some prophetic speculations on the limits of economic control. Where the political aspects of human rights had taken two centuries to explore, Smith's achievement was to bring ths study of economic aspects to the same point in a single work.' Goldsmiths Cat. 11392; Kress 7261; Rothschild 1897; PMM 221. (2)