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SMITH, Adam.

Essays on Philosophical Subjects.

To which is prefixed, an Account of the Life and Writings of the Author; by Dugald Stewart, F.R.S.E.

London: for T. Cadell Jun., W. Davies, and W. Creech in Edinburgh, 1795 Stock Code: 90155
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Smith on astronomy, physics, logic, and the arts: an attractively bound copy

First edition, published five years after Smith's death. It is prefaced by Dugald Stewart's "Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith", one of the earliest biographical notices of Smith, and "until Stewart's Biographical Memoir of 1811 formed the basis upon which everyone drew for the biographies of Smith that began to appear in the early 19th century" (Tribe).

Smith's literary executors, the medical scientist Joseph Black and geologist James Hutton, state in the advertisement that Smith's essays were intended as parts of "a connected history of the liberal sciences and elegant arts", but that Smith "long since found it necessary to abandon that plan as far too extensive". The essays range over philosophy, aesthetics and the history of science. Most were likely written before the appearance of the Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759, but were withheld from publication as part of Smith's "extensive plan".

Kress lists the Dublin printing first and calls the London "another issue", while Tribe calls the Dublin edition a piracy. Neither is correct. Dublin booksellers at the time had a well-established exemption from the copyright laws and could legally reprint any new publication first published in London, without having to pay for copy. The London edition precedes the legal Dublin reprint.

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Quarto (270 x 205 mm). Contemporary half calf, smooth spine lettered and ruled in gilt, marbled boards.


Manuscript annotation "Annan Subscription Library" at head of title (inventory number erased). Joints, spine ends, and corners skilfully restored, endpapers somewhat stained, very occasional light spotting; a crisp copy, presenting well.


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