The Fable of the Bees:
or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits.London: printed for J. Roberts, 1714 Stock Code: 138116
NotesRare first edition, first issue, of this "celebrated work, which through Adam Smith, had an immense influence on political economy" (Foxwell). The work originated in 1705 as a poem titled The Grumbling Hive (essentially unobtainable in the market); this is the first edition to contain the 20 "Remarks" which annotate and explain various lines in the verse fable.
Highly controversial upon publication, The Fable of the Bees "exercised a powerful influence in shaping the intellectual agenda of economists and other social scientists later in the 18th century" (New Palgrave III, p. 298).
This first issue has a fleuron on the title, leaf I3 mis-signed I2, and "rejoyning" instead of "rejoicing" on p. 36, line 26. The second issue corrects the error on page 36, has leaf B3 mis-signed B5 as well as I3 mis-signed I2 and is issued with a cancel title-page removing the fleuron and adding text in its place: "containing, Several Discourses, to demonstrate, That Human Frailties, during the degeneracy of mankind, may be turn'd to the Advantage of the civil society, and made to supply the Place of Moral Virtues". The alteration to the title was presumably intended to attract a wider readership, extending the title to explain the moral and philosophical merits of the work.
Duodecimo (153 x 85 mm). Contemporary panelled sheep, neatly rebacked.
Engraved head- and tailpieces, initials.
Ownership inscription to front free endpaper: "Martha Mill June ye 18th 1742", with the signature of leaf L1 amended in ink to read "MiLL". Neatly rebacked and corners restored, errata corrected in ink and in pencil, with the occasional marginal mark in pencil; scattered light foxing, darker in places, and the odd rust mark; withal a very pleasing copy in an attractive contemporary binding.
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