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WALLACE, Robert.

A Dissertation on the Numbers of Mankind in antient and modern Times:

in which The superior Populousness of Antiquity is maintained. With An Appendix, Containing Additional Observations on the same Subject, And Some Remarks on Mr. Hume's Political Discourse, Of the Populousness of antient Nations.

Edinburgh : for G. Hamilton and J. Balfour, 1753 Stock Code: 127137
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A direct influence on Malthus

First edition. Robert Wallace (1697-1771) was an interesting figure in the Scottish Enlightenment, a founding member of the Rankenian Club during his university days and also active in the Philosophical and Select societies. His elaborate history of population was based on the extensive research in ancient history that he had originally presented to the Philosophical Society some time before 1745. Wallace opened his argument with a hypothetical model for the geometrical rate of world population growth, indicating that present world population was far below its potential. As Wallace was completing work on the Dissertation in 1751 he showed it to fellow Philosophical Society member David Hume, who reciprocated with the essay he published in the Political Discourses of 1752: "Of the populousness of ancient nations". Hume argued that population estimates in ancient sources were unlikely to be as accurate as modern assessments, but he graciously acknowledged his debt to Wallace, to which Wallace replied in the lengthy appendix here. "This polite exchange was widely celebrated as a model for the pursuit of truth in an enlightened age. Montesquieu supervised the translation of both works into French. In the Confessions Rousseau acknowledged the spirit of the debate, praising Hume in particular for having helped edit Wallace's text" (ODNB). Wallace's emphasis on the geometrical rate of population growth was a direct influence on Thomas Malthus's population calculus in the Essay on the Principle of Population.

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Octavo (195 x 118 mm). Contemporary sprinkled calf, red morocco label.


19th-century armorial bookplate pasted over earlier ownership signature to front pastedown; some contemporary underlining in ink and a few contemporary annotations. Light wear to tips, a few marks to covers, faint creasing and tiny blemishes to a few pages, marginal strip torn away from p. 299 not affecting text. A very nice copy.


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