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Kapital und Kapitalzins. Erste Abteilung. Geschichte und Kritik der Kapitalzins-Theorieen. [Zweite Abtheilung. Positive Theorie des Kapitales.]

Published: Innsbruck: Verlag der Wagner'schen Universitäts-Buchhandlung, 1884-1889

Stock code: 97505

Price: £9,750

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Scarce first edition of the chief work of Böhm-Bawerk’s life, a copy with a marked provenance. First owned by Philip Wicksteed, with his ownership inscription dated 1886 on the first leaf and with his bookplate. The volume subsequently passed to the British Library of Political Science, from there to the Armstrong College Library in Newcastle, and thence to the University of Newcastle. There are a small number of stamps recording the book’s moves, mostly small, and in the blank margins of leaves. “A monument of creative analysis and a mile-stone on the road of our science, this work presents a series of critiques of theories of interest, each a piece of theoretical cabinet work, each a work of art unequalled in its perfection. The book does not give descriptions of the social and historical milieu in which each theory originated. Nor are there any philosophical embroideries or synthetic substitutes for explanation. Even the history of thought in the field of its central topic takes second place. The author limits himself to one of many possible tasks: he concentrates on one theory of interest after another, considering in each case only its substantive content. This content he reformulates with masterful perception, appraises its essentials with an unflinching eye, using only a few simple but decisive arguments. With a minimum of effort, following the straightest possible line, and with the most graceful elegance, he dispatches one theory after another; and – after having carefully exposed the cause of the disaster – he continues on his way without losing another word, or indeed without saying one word too many. There is no book from which one could learn better how to seize firmly on the essentials and how to ignore the irrelevant. And then, everything having been so methodically and conscientiously prepared, there appeared, as the second volume of Kapital und Kapitalzins, Die positive Theorie des Kapitals… This was, despite the suggestion of a narrower content in the title, a comprehensive analysis of the economic process, the work of his life, the most personal product of his efforts. Whatever views future generations may hold of the separate links in the chain of his thought, they can never fail to admire the magnificent design, the grandiose élan of the whole work. It is in any case quite certain that this was an effort to scale the greatest heights that economics permits, and that the achievement actually reached a level where only a few lofty peaks are to be found” (J.A. Schumpeter, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk in: Ten Great Economists, (1956), pp. 152-3).

2 volumes bound in one, octavo (214 135 mm). Contemporary pebble grain cloth, spine direct-lettered gilt. Housed in a burgundy quarter morocco solander box by the Chelsea Bindery Ownership inscription of Philip H. Wicksteed to the initial blank recto of the first title-page, with his printed bookplate to the front pastedown. Later library stamps of the British Library of Political Science and Newcastle University Library, with cancellation. Rear board detached, spine frayed at head and foot, short horizontal split, and joints worn. One or two sections sprung, blank corner of one leaf torn away, text unaffected, natural printing flaw affecting two letters of another leaf. Edges lightly browned and a little brittle, as usual with books of this period. Withal a very good copy with a very good association.

Bibliography: Batson, p. 22; Menger, column 128; not in Einaudi.

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