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[QUESNAY, François.]

Physiocratie, ou constitution naturelle du gouvernement le plus avantageux au genre humain. Publié par Du Pont, des Sociétés Royales d'Agriculture de Soissons & d'Orléans, & Correspondant de la Société d'Émulation de Londres.

[With:] Discussions et développemens sur quelques-unes des notions de l'économie politique. Pour servir de Seconde Partie au Recueil intitulé: Physiocratie.

Pékin, and sold in Paris: Merlin, 1767 Stock Code: 124093
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The Pékin Physiocratie

First edition, the extremely rare first issue with the fictitious Pékin imprint on the title pages of both parts, in the corrected state. Issued thus to avoid French censorship, but in fact printed in Paris, the Pékin issue was printed in very small numbers and swiftly withdrawn because of a reference made by the editor, Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours, to Louis XV's engagement in the printing of Quesnay's earlier work, the Tableau économique. Du Pont de Nemours stated that the Tableau had been first published at Versailles in December 1758 "sous les yeux du Roi" in the presence of the king; this expression was suppressed from the Leiden edition of 1768, a cancel replacing the offending leaf (leaf G4, part 1, pp. 1034). This correction was also made to some copies of the Pékin issue, and this copy is one such example, with leaf G4 a cancel (see Jean Viardot in En français dans le texte and Mattioli for a discussion of the uncorrected, corrected, and "intermediate" states).

The Pékin issue is very scarce, and it is thought that there are fewer than fifteen copies extant. Viardot records three copies (Menger Collection at Hitotsubashi University, the Du Pont de Nemours and James Ford Bell Collection), and WorldCat locates just six more (three in the US, two in Denmark, and one in the UK, at Edinburgh University). Just one other copy, defective, has been traced in commerce.

Physiocratie contains the major writings of François Quesnay (1694-1774), many first published in the Journal de l'Agriculture and assembled here by the periodical's editor Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours for the first time, thus offering in one work the "Bible" of physiocracy, and the book that gave the Physiocrats their name. It is considered one of the most important and original works on political economy to be published before the Wealth of Nations. Quesnay presented a copy of his work to Adam Smith, who described its author as "ingenious and profound, a man of the greatest simplicity and modesty", while pronouncing Quesnay's system to be "with all its imperfections, perhaps the nearest approximation to the truth that has yet been published upon the subject of political economy" (quoted in Rae's Life of Adam Smith).

Quesnay was the court physician to Louis XV, and his notion of a circular flow of income throughout the economy was influenced by the contemporary discovery of blood circulation through the human body. He believed that trade and industry were not sources of wealth, and instead argued that the real economic movers were agricultural surpluses flowing through the economy in the form of rent, wages and purchases. Quesnay argued that regulation impedes the flow of income throughout all social classes and therefore economic development; and that taxes on the productive classes, such as farmers, should be reduced in favour of rises for unproductive classes, such as landowners, since their luxurious way of life distorts the income flow.

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2 parts in 2 volumes, octavo, continuously paginated and signed. Part 1 (188 x 115 mm): contemporary mottled half sheep, red morocco spine label, compartments tooled in gilt, raised bands, patterned paper boards, floral endpapers, edges red. Part 2 (188 x 120 mm): bound after a copy of the 1768 Leyde edition of the first part in 19th-century green pebbled cloth-backed marbled paper boards, cloth tips, flat spine lettered and ruled in gilt, edges sprinkled. Part 2 housed in a dark green quarter morocco solander box by the Chelsea Bindery.


Engraved frontispiece by Ozanne after Jeaurat to part 1; woodcut vignettes by Beaugnet to title pages of both parts.


Leaves g1, B3, and G4 (part 1) and L8, N4, N5, and P2 (part 2) are present in cancelled state. Part 1: early ownership stamp, the initials FR below a crown, to title page; ownership signature J. B. Andrieux (?) at head of title page. Extensive loss of leather (mostly worm damage) to joints and spine ends, but contents unaffected, lightly browned and spotted, top right corner of initial blank clipped, presumably to remove previous ownership marking. Part 2: extremities very lightly rubbed, else a bright, clean copy.


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