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JEVONS, William Stanley.

A Serious Fall in the Value of Gold ascertained, and its Social Effects set forth. With two Diagrams.

[Bound after:] TOOKE, Thomas. On the Bank Charter Act of 1844, its principles and operation; with suggestions for an improved administration of the Bank of England. London, Longman et al, 1856. [And:] ARBUTHNOT, G. Sir Robert Peel's Act of 1844, regulating the issue of bank notes, vindicated. London, Longman et al, 1857.

Published: London: Edward Stanford, 1863

Stock code: 94928

Price: £7,500

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First edition, presentation copy, of Jevons’s first book publication, one of the greatest contributions to the theory of index numbers ever published, the early work which helped establish among his peers the 27-year-old Jevons’s reputation as an economist. “Jevons had virtually to invent the concept of a price index for himself, as he also did a means of comparing changes in its value over time, a task which he accomplished with astonishing competence and originality” (Laidler, p. 334). Schumpeter calls it, with reservations, a “splendid work of seminal importance” (p. 1093n), and Fisher regarded the work as proof that Jevons “may perhaps be considered the father of index numbers.” In 1860, Jevons had begun to compile a “statistical atlas” (only two diagrams were ever published), during which his attention was drawn to the price rises in the period following the Californian and Australian gold discoveries of 1849. A few years later, on 18 January 1863, Jevons wrote the following to his brother, Herbert: “… I have been led to observe the great rise in prices of nearly all things since 1851, which is obviously due to a fall in the value of gold. This I am now trying to ascertain and prove in a conclusive manner, which will, of course, be a very important and startling fact” (Papers and Correspondence III, 4). The outcome of Jevons’s investigations was A Serious Fall in the Value of Gold (1863) – a work which established new standards of sophistication for applied economic research and has earned the admiration of every commentator both at the time and since. Jevons covered virtually every aspect and implication of a long-term change in the price level with lucidity and accuracy, his final estimate of a fall in the value of gold between 9 and 15 per cent agreeing closely with the results arrived at by Cairnes by more traditional a priori methods. The work was published on 16 April; by July, only 74 copies had been sold. However, after these initial difficulties, it “quickly gained approval and acceptance which the British Association papers of 1862 had failed to achieve. In this single tract Jevons had, by devising his own means of measuring price changes and sorting out the cyclical factors affecting them, solved one of the great questions of the day. His proof that there had been an important fall in the value of gold ‘met with general acceptance’, wrote Foxwell in his Introduction to Investigations in Currency and Finance and ‘… by its singular success placed its author at once in the first rank of living economists'” (Papers and Correspondence I, 39). Keynes writes: “For unceasing fertility and originality of mind applied, with a sure touch and unfailing control of the material, to a mass of statistics, involving immense labours for an unaided individual ploughing his way through with no precedents and labour-saving devices to relieve his task, this pamphlet stands unrivalled in the history of our subject” (Essays in Biography, 2nd edition, p. 271). This copy inscribed “Prof. Waley From the Author”, on the initial blank leaf. Jacob Waley (1818-1873) was Professor of Political Economy at University College, London from 1854-66 and Emeritus Professor from then on. He wrote one of the testimonials in support of Jevons’s application at Owens College in 1866 and examined him for his (successful) application for a scholarship at UCL.

Octavo (205 127 mm), pp. [2, blank], [4, title and contents leaf], 73, [1]; pp. 21-22 a double-page folding table. Later brown cloth, by Wilson & Son, binders at Cambridge, spine direct lettered gilt, marbled edges. With frontispiece and a folding chart at page 34. Circular library stamp of the British Library of Political Science to each title page. In excellent condition.

Bibliography: Menger, col. 468; not in Einaudi.. See the Royal Economic Society Collected edition of Jevons's works, vol. III, p. 113, where Waley's testimonial is printed.

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