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QUESNAY, Francois.

Magnificent autograph letter signed, to François Véron Duverger de Forbonnais.

Published: [Versailles:] 1758

Stock code: 86329

Price: £75,000

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One of two known letters of Quesnay’s correspondence with Forbonnais, giving a valuable insight into Quesnay’s working methods. The letter concerns two works, one by Quesnay, the other by Forbonnais. The first part of the letter deals with Forbonnais’ Recherches et Considerations sur Ies Finances de la France, which was anonymously published in Basel in May 1758. Quesnay criticizes Forbonnais’ use of statistics regarding currency and salaries by a long demonstration of the error he has made in his calculations (‘I1 y a, comme vous le remarquez, l’erreur de fait et l’erreur de déduction relative à la taille et au produit des aides de 1683 comparés à leur état actuel’), and discusses how Forbonnais can correct this error in future editions of his work: ‘Quant à votre carton, vous pourriez, après avoir rectifié le fait, faire la même observation qui affaibliroit du moins beaucoup l’erreur [de] déduction, ou la conséquence de l’erreur de fait qui est dans l’in 4°’. Forbonnais was later to incorporate this correction. Quesnay claims it is difficult to compare the earlier financial situation of France to the present situation as it is almost impossible to calculate the increase of the circulation of money at this earlier date, or indeed of the previous 200 years. He refers Forbonnais to his Questions intéressantes sur 1a population …, published as part four of Mirabeau’s L’Ami des hommes. It is known that Quesnay frequently distributed his works in manuscript form before their publication, and Quesnay sent a manuscript draft of this work to Forbonnais, probably already corrected to some extent, asking him for assistance. He wishes to give concrete examples of the yield of certain agricultural products, wine in particular, and asks Forbonnais to assist him in various calculations. He also refers him to the footnotes to questions XVI in the sections on population (in which he refers to Pattullo’s work), and on commerce, in which he maintains that it is difficult to establish monetary statistics. This letter is of great interest in showing that Quesnay and Forbonnais were on good terms during the 1750s and that the animosity which later developed between them had not always been so. It is also of great value, giving an insight into the working methods of both writers. Whilst there is a fair body of Quesnay’s correspondence in institutions in France and America, manuscripts of Quesnay are excessively rare, and only two examples of his correspondence with Forbonnais are known.

Three pages, quarto, with address panel and armorial seal. Preserved in a custom made cloth portfolio and drop back box. In excellent condition.

Bibliography: Published in INED, François Quesnay et la Physiocratie (1958), vol. I, pp. 295–7. Published in German in Kuczynski, M., ed., François Quesnay, Ökonomische Schriften (1971), vol. I, pp. 451–60.

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