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SMITH, Adam.

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.

In Three Volumes. The Fourth Edition.

London, printed for A. Strahan; and T. Cadell, 1786 Stock Code: 132767
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Fourth edition of "the first and greatest classic of modern economic thought" (PMM), in a fine contemporary binding by one of Scotland's best-known binders of the period, William Scott of Edinburgh, using tools from the workshop of James Scott. "The great majority of the tools used by James Scott are not found in use by any other binders of his time; some appear in the eighties on the handful of bindings assignable to William William's bindings are very similar to James's, and are evidence of a long association with the making of James Scott's bindings and with his practical and aesthetic ideas" (Loudon, pp. 277, 325). The present binding, which post-dates James, bears two tools to the spine which Loudon lists as clearly identifiable as James's: the floral tool to the first compartment (Bo. 37) and the nesting bird tools to the second, fourth, and fifth compartments (Zo. 9), both of which made their first appearance in bindings of 1777. Loudon also notes their appearance in a number of James's other bindings (see JS. 33 and 34, for example, which show the nesting bird).
In his Wealth of Nations, Smith "begins with the thought that labour is the source from which a nation derives what is necessary to it. The improvement of the division of labour is the measure of productivity and in it lies the human propensity to barter and exchange The Wealth of Nations ends with a history of economic development, a definitive onslaught on the mercantile system, and some prophetic speculations on the limits of economic control" (ibid.). "The Wealth of Nations had no rival in scope or depth when published and is still one of the few works in its field to have achieved classic status, meaning simply that it has sustained yet survived repeated reading, critical and adulatory, long after the circumstances which prompted it have become the object of historical enquiry" (ODNB).
"The 'Advertisement to the Fourth Edition' announces that no alterations of any kind have been made to this edition. Cannan noted some small variations, which can be attributed to small misreadings or unauthorised corrections by the printers. The division between volumes is identical to that in the 3rd Edition, and Vol. II Bk. IV Ch. 8 is this time included in the Table of Contents" (Tribe).
Provenance: with the ownership signatures of Findlay Anderson, likely the judge and member of the Madras Civil Service (d. 15 November 1884), son of John Anderson of Inchyra House and nephew of East India Company servant David Anderson (1751-1825). It is plausible that the present set was passed by descent through the uncle rather than the father, David having returned to England in 1785 with a fortune of 50,000, which he used to purchase the St Germains estate in East Lothian and remodel the house and library. A purchase of the latest and best edition of the Wealth of Nations, in a grandly decorative, classical binding, eventually handed over to the nephew who followed in his footsteps to India, would fit the circumstances well.

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3 volumes, octavo (208 x 125 mm). Contemporary tree calf by Scott of Edinburgh, red morocco spine labels, green morocco numbering pieces, smooth spines elaborately decorated in gilt, gilt roll border to boards. Housed in a dark brown flat-back cloth box by the Chelsea Bindery.


19th-century ownership signature of Findlay Anderson crossed through, with later ownership signature L. Robson A.C.I.S., to each title page. Spine ends and corners worn, with small loss to top compartment of vol. I; joints cracked but holding, some surface wear; upper outer corner of preliminary leaves of each volume with water stain, some spotting and the odd mark, occasional pencil markings; withal a very good copy.


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