An Essay on the Principle of Population,
as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society. With Remarks on the Speculations of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, and Other Writers.London : 1798 Stock Code: 137089
NotesRare first edition of one of the most important and influential works in the history of economic thought. In this copy Q8r (pp. 239-40) is in cancelled state, which amends the incorrectly printed phrase "the immortality of man on earth seems to be as completely established" to read "mortality" on line 9.
"Malthus was not the first writer to make the obvious point that the growth of population is ultimately limited by the food supply. He was, however, the first to bring it home to readers with the aid of a simple, powerful metaphor: population when allowed to increase without limit, increases in a geometrical ratio, while the food supply can at best increase at an arithmetical ratio; so, whatever the plausible rate of increase of the food supply, an unchecked multiplication of human beings must quickly lead to standing-room only" (Blaug, Great Economists before Keynes, p. 141).
"The central idea of the essay - and hub of the Malthusian theory - was a simple one If the natural increase in population occurs the food supply becomes insufficient and the size of the population is checked by 'misery' - that is the poorest sections of the community suffer disease and famine. Malthus recognises two other possible checks to population expansion: first 'vice' - that is, homosexuality, prostitution, and abortion (all totally unacceptable to Malthus); and second 'moral restraint' - the voluntary limitation of the product of children by the postponement of marriage" (PMM).
"For today's readers, living in a post-Malthus era, the world's population problems are well known and serious, but no longer sensational. It is difficult therefore to appreciate the radical and controversial impact made by the Essay at the time of publication. It challenged the conventional notion that population growth is an unmixed blessing. It discussed prostitution, contraception, and other sexual matters. And it gave vivid descriptions of the horrendous consequences of overpopulation and of the brutal means by which populations are checked" (ODNB). Despite its unpopularity with liberal critics, Malthus's principle of population became accepted as a central tenet of classical political economy and Charles Darwin acknowledged Malthus's influence in the development of his theory of natural selection.
Malthus was subsequently appointed Professor of History and Political Economy at the East India Company's Haileybury College.
Octavo (206 x 122 mm). Contemporary tan diced calf, rebacked to style, red morocco spine label, raised bands and spine ends edged in single gilt fillets, concentric double fillet and scrollwork border to boards in gilt, blue marbled endpapers, edges sprinkled blue. Housed in a brown cloth flat-back box by the Chelsea Bindery.
Printed on blue toned stock. 17-line excerpt of the Analytical Review's 1798 review of the Essay written out in a contemporary hand on the final page, extensive marginal annotation in the same hand almost entirely struck through in ink to p. 216, a couple of other small marginal marks, presumed ownership initials crossed out at top corner of title page costing the very tip of the corner, early armorial bookplate (motto: Esse quam videri) to front pastedown, fore edge of signatures R-S a trifle browned, signature I foxed, boards very lightly worn. Overall a fine copy, tall and handsome.
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