Adam Smith. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. London: Printed for W. Strahan; and T. Cadell, 1776. First edition. Two large quarto volumes. Approximately 10.75 x 8.25 inches. , 510, [2, blank]; , 587, [1, ads] pages. Complete with half-title in Volume II (no half-title called for in Volume I) and final blank leaf in Volume I. Attractively rebound (in the mid twentieth century) in eighteenth-century-style polished calf. Spine ruled in blind and numbered in gilt in compartments with red morocco gilt lettering label. Board edges decoratively tooled in blind. Edges sprinkled red. Armorial bookplate of Woolsington and booklabel Viscount Mersey, Bignor Park, on front pastedown. A fine copy with generous margins and no blemishes whatsoever. Housed together in a cloth slipcase. Adam Smith (1723-1790) spent ten years in the writing and perfecting of The Wealth of Nations. "The book succeeded at once, and the first edition was exhausted in six months...Whether it be true or not, as Buckle said, that the 'Wealth of Nations' was, 'in its ultimate results, probably the most important that had ever been written'...it is probable that no book can be mentioned which so rapidly became an authority both with statesmen and philosophers" (D.N.B.). "The history of economic theory up to the end of the nineteenth century consists of two parts: the mercantilist phase which was based not so much on a doctrine as on a system of practice which grew out of social conditions; and the second phase which saw the development of the theory that the individual had the right to be unimpeded in the exercise of economic activity. While it cannot be said that Smith invented the latter theory...his work is the first major expression of it. He 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...Labour represents the three essential elements-wages, profit and rent-and these three also constitute income. From the working of the economy, Smith passes to its matter-'stock'-which compasses all that man owns either for his own consumption or for the return which it brings him. 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...The Wealth of Nations is not a system, but as a provisional analysis it is complete convincing. The certainty of its criticism and its grasp of human nature have made it the first and greatest classic of modern economic thought" (Printing and the Mind of Man). Grolier, 100 English, 57. Kress 7261. Printing and the Mind of Man 221. Rothschild 1897.