First Edition of Cantillon's Great Work
CANTILLON, Richard. Essai sur la Nature du Commerce ed général. Traduit de l'Anglois. A Londres: chez Fletcher Gyles [but probably Paris], 1755. Paris: Chez Fletcher Gyles , 1755.
First edition. Octavo. [4] 430 [6]. Complete with half-title and final "Table des Chapitres."

Contemporary French mottled calf, red morocco spine label, spine gilt in compartments, marbled endpapers, red edges. A fine copy. Housed in a custom full brown calf clamshell, decoratively tooled in gilt on spine.

First edition of Cantillon's great work: "the most systematic statement of economic principles before [Adam Smith's] Wealth of Nations" (Roll, p. 121). Richard Cantillon was a Parisian banker of Irish descent. His date of birth is uncertain, usually given as 1680; he died, presumed murdered, in 1734. His Essai was written about 1730 and circulated in manuscript, quickly exerting a strong influence through the small and highly concentrated professional circle of Parisian banking and finance in which Cantillon moved.

The Essai is divided into three parts: Part I lays out the fundamentals of the analytical structure; Part II is devoted to money, credit, and interest; and Part III deals mainly with foreign trade, but also gives an acute analysis of banks, bank credit, and coinage. Schumpeter considers this "a brilliant performance, which in most respects stood unsurpassed for about a century," noting that, for example, "the automatic mechanism that distributes the monetary metals internationally is...almost faultlessly described, an achievement usually credited to Hume." Schumpeter remarks that Cantillon was plagiarized by some English economists and recognized by others, including Smith, but his work became obscured in the English-speaking world until W.S. Jevons re-introduced him in his essay "Richard Cantillon and the Nationality of Political Economy" in the Contemporary Review (1881). In France his significance never suffered a similar eclipse.

Einaudi 846. Goldsmiths' 8989. Kress 5423. Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis, 217ff.

HBS # 66437 $45,000