“The First and Greatest Classic of Modern Economic Thought”
SMITH, Adam. Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. In Three volumes. The Seventh Edition. London: Printed for A. Strahan; and T. Cadell , 1793.
Seventh edition. Three octavo volumes (8 1/4 x 5 1/8 inches; 210 x 130 mm). x, 499, [1, blank]; vi, 518, [5, appendix], [1, blank]; v, [1, blank], 465, [1, blank], [49, index], [1, colophon] pp.

Full contemporary speckled calf. All board edge stamped in blind. Each volume with a red morocco spine label, lettered in gilt and a small green morocco volume number label, printed in gilt. Top edges dyed brown, others speckled red. Outer hinges of each volume with a few tiny wormholes. Boards a bit rubbed. Inner hinges of volume III a bit cracked but firm. Paper flaw to lower outer margin of leaf T4 of volume III, but not affecting text. Overall a very good and internally very clean set.

Adam Smith (1723-1790) spent ten years in the writing and perfecting of The Wealth of Nations. “The book succeeded at once, and the first edition was exhausted in six months...Whether it be true or not, as Buckle said, that the ‘Wealth of Nations’ was, ‘in its ultimate results, probably the most important that had ever been written’...it is probable that no book can be mentioned which so rapidly became an authority both with statesmen and philosophers” (D.N.B.).

“The history of economic theory up to the end of the nineteenth century consists of two parts: the mercantilist phase which was based not so much on a doctrine as on a system of practice which grew out of social conditions; and the second phase which saw the development of the theory that the individual had the right to be unimpeded in the exercise of economic activity. While it cannot be said that Smith invented the latter theory . . . his work is the first major expression of it. He 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 . . . From the working of the economy, Smith passes to its matter -- ‘stock’ -- which compasses all that man owns either for his own consumption or for the return which 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 . . . The certainty of its criticism and its grasp of human nature have made it the first and greatest classic of modern economic thought” (Printing and the Mind of Man).

Einaudi. Goldsmiths' 15565. Kress 2618. Printing and the Mind of Man 221. Sabin 82303.

HBS # 67815 $3,000