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TURGOT, Anne-Robert-Jacques.

Réflexions sur la formation et la distribution des richesses.

[bound after 2 other works:] Le conciliateur ou lettres d'un ecclesiastique à un Magistrat sur les affaires présentes. No place: no publisher, 1788. Lettres sur les Grains. Ecrites a M. l'abbe Terray, contrôleur général, par M. Turgot, intendant de Limoges. No place: no publisher, [1770-71?].

Published: [Paris?]: [no publisher], 1788

Stock code: 96642

Price: £15,000

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A superb volume containing of some of Turgot’s rarest works. The Conciliateur, written with Loménie de Brienne, deals with the problem of religious toleration, here present in second edition, first published in “Rome” in 1754. The Réflexions, first serialised in the Ephémérides du Citoyen, is a milestone in the history of economic thought, which exerted a major influence on Adam Smith. Written in 1766, it first appeared in 1769–70 in the Ephémérides du citoyen, and is here present in its first book edition. “The Réflexions is a remarkable book, containing not only the skeleton of the structure of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, particularly the concept of the division of labor, the distinction between the market and the natural equilibrium price of commodities, and the stress on the volume of real savings as the prime determinant of an economy’s rate of growth, but going beyond Adam Smith in the analysis of the relation between profit and interest and the clear statement of the law of diminishing returns in agriculture” (Blaug, Great economists before Keynes, pp. 254-255). “Two young Chinamen, who had been brought to France and educated by Jesuits, were sent back to Canton with a royal annuity, to maintain a correspondence upon the state of literature and science in China” (Palgrave III, 592). Turgot wrote this treatise for them, his most considerable work in economic speculation. The work is divided into 100 sections in which he traces the existence of commerce to (i) the unequal distribution of land, (ii) the diversity of the soil in fitness for production, (iii) the multiplicity of human needs, and (iv) the advantages of the division of labour, which he illustrates by examples. Turgot’s conclusions, ‘C’est toujours la terre qui est la première et l’unique source de toute richesse … Il n’y a de revenu que le produit net des terres’, are in harmony with those of the Physiocrats; it was only his repugnance to all ‘sects’ that kept him aloof from the inner circle of the school. The Lettres sur les Grains reprints Turgot’s correspondence with the Abbé Terray on the subject of the corn trade. In 1770-1771 Turgot found his generality menaced by famine. Rigorously enforcing the unfettered movement of corn within the district, he trusted with confidence to an influx of corn and to its commercial distribution where it was most required, as evidenced by the height of prices. At this period, he addressed to Abbé Terray, then controller-general, seven letters on the corn trade, of which three are lost. In these letters he examined the ill effects of legal restrictions upon the free circulation of corn throughout the country, and strenuously pleaded for free trade.

3 works, octavo (191 119 mm). Contemporary French sheep-backed marbled boards, decorative gilt spine, red morocco label, red speckled edges. Single wormhole through top panel of spine, Reflexions bound without the half-title.

Bibliography: Einaudi 5772; En français dans le texte, 165; Goldsmiths' 13536; INED 4362; Kress B.1506; Mattioli 3673; McCulloch, p. 7 ('This is the best of all the works founded on the principles of the Economists; and it is in some respects the best work on the science published previously to the "Wealth of Nations"'); see Schumpeter, p. 248.

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