Friday, July 13, 2007

Bargains in Adam Smith's Wealth Of Nations

From The Herald, Glasgow (Not Paisley!) a snippet of interest to those nursing their first editions of Adam Smith’s Wealth Of Nations:

Adam Smith book fetches £66,000

“A RARE first-edition copy of The Wealth of Nations by Scottish economist Adam Smith was sold for £66,000 at Sotheby’s in London yesterday. The book, in two volumes, had been expected to sell for between £40,000 and £60,000

When first published on 9 March, 1776, in two volumes, it sold for the princely sum of £1.16s.0p and it kept the same price for the second edition published on 28 February 1778.

A ‘Supplement’ edition was published on 20 November 1784 with an extra 24,000 words, selling at 16 shillings to purchasers of the first edition. This Supplement was published along with the 3rd edition (20 November 1784), incorporating the material in the Supplement. This is regarded as the definitive edition in that it incorporated Smith’s detailed corrections to errors that had crept into his text.

The fourth edition was published in 1786, but was not altered in other than trivial typos and therefore is really a reprint of the 3rd edition text. The fifth edition was published in 1789 ans the last published in Smith’s lifetime, again with no substantial changes (unlike Moral Sentiments, which Smith amended in its last edition in 1790, the year of his death).

These details from pp 61-64 of the General Introduction to the 2-volume Glasgow edition of Wealth Of Nations, published by Oxford University Press, and reproduced in exactly the same pagination by Liberty Fund (Indiana) at the bargain price of £10.95 (about US$20). This is the scholars’ edition par excellence, complete with the editors’ footnotes and comments.

So, for the price of a couple of cups of coffee and, perhaps, a bagel or doughnut, or slice of pecan pie or two, you get the text of a book that somebody just paid £66,000 (US$130,000) for in July 2007 and which cost somebody else £1.16s in 1776.

Is that a deal or is that a deal?


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