PARETO, Vilfredo.

Cours d'Économie Politique.

Tome premier [-second].

Lausanne: F. Rouge, Éditeur, Librairie de l'Université, 1896-97 Stock Code: 149025
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The copy of economist Irving Fisher

First edition of Pareto's first major work, a superb association copy, with the bookplate to front pastedown and ownership stamps to title pages of the economist Irving Fisher, and with his annotations: a few in pencil and some in ink, including a correction to a formula and an addition to a graph, and frequent pencil side-lining, more so to volume II.

The Cours d'Économie Politique was "A pioneering work in that he provided a sociological base for his predominantly economic studies" (Bucolo, The Other Pareto, p. 83). "Two ideas dominate the book: that of successive approximation and that of interdependence of economic and social phenomena. It is divided into two parts: the first is devoted to the exposition of the principles of pure political economy and the second covers applied economics... The outstanding feature of the Cours is the way it combines theoretical analysis with discussion of a large amount of statistical and factual material and the use (mainly in notes) of mathematical techniques" (IESS). The work's resonance was impressive: "the large literature evoked by this publication (which still runs on) testifies conclusively to its importance and to its stimulating influence" (Schumpeter, p. 859n).

Irving Fisher was among those stimulated to write. Fisher wrote a review of each of the two volumes for the Yale Review, presumably working from these copies. In his reviews, "Fisher wrote that its corrections to the Walrasian system were insignificant and not original... While Pareto's ability with the mathematical method was undisputed, Fisher objected that the Italian economist had made too extensive a use of it, making its universal adoption a more difficult task: 'the book would have been more efficient in destroying the prejudice against mathematical analysis if the writer had rigorously abstained from mathematical language except where really helpful... such overfondness for mathematical machinery strengthens the impression... that it is capable only of grinding out truisms'" (Asso and Fiorito).

"According to Fisher, Pareto's Cours had also analytical weaknesses, particularly in his confused treatment of utility and indifference curves. Pareto, Fisher argued, was wrongly obsessed with the problem of measurement, and in his writings utility had become just another metaphysical category, of the kind which hindered the real understanding of economic phenomena. In the end, Fisher restricted the original parts of the Cours to the reconstruction of statistical series and to Pareto's promising attempts to go beyond economics and find useful connections with other branches of the social sciences, namely history, sociology or statistics" (ibid.).

Despite his critical interpretation of Pareto's work - an interpretation which is typical of early American responses - Fisher nonetheless enjoyed a close professional and personal relationship with Pareto. Fisher had met the Italian on a European tour in 1894 (when he also made personal acquaintance with Menger, Böhm-Bawerk, Philippovich and Wieser in Vienna, and Walras in Lausanne) and later corresponded with him during his preparations for Elementary Principles of Economics (1912). Pareto described Fisher to his colleagues as 'the greatest economist on top of the ground' and, in January 1897, wrote to Fisher praising Mathematical Investigations in the Theory of Value and Price (1892): 'It is precisely the young economists like yourself who will make the necessary progress in political economy, and who will make it become a true science. I hope to have made a first step, but you and others will make other steps even greater!' (quoted in Allen, Irving Fisher, p. 56, who also notes - p. 77 - that Fisher "saved the letter all of his life and was very proud of it").

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2 volumes, octavo (227 x 137 mm). Contemporary purple half morocco and marbled boards, Vol. I rebacked and recornered with new front free endpaper to vol. I, marbled endpapers.


Diagrams and tables to the text.


With later pencilled notes on the volume loosely inserted. Without the final blank in vol. I; vol. II lightly worn with some loss to marbled paper on front cover, hinges split but holding in vol. II, edges browned and a little delicate. A very good set.


Einaudi 4294; IESS (1896–1897). See Pier Francesco Asso and Luca Fiorito, 'Receptiveness, knowledge, influence: the spread of Italian economic thought in the United States (1890–1940)', in Asso (ed.) From Economists to Economists: The International Spread


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