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Untersuchung der Natur und Ursachen von Nationalreichthümern, Aus dem Englischen. 2 Bände.


Leipzig, Weidmann, 1776-78. 8vo. Bound in two nice uniform contemporary half calf bindings with five raised bands and gilt lettering to spine. Ex-libris pasted on to pasted down front free end-papers and a small embossed stamp to front free end paper on volume 1 ("Buchhändler u. Antiquar Carl Helf"). Stamp to p. 1 of both volumes. Spines with light soiling and capital on volume 1 lacking a small part of the leather. A few light brown spots throught. A fine set. VIII, 632 pp; XII, 740 pp. ¶ Exceedingly rare first German edition, also being the very first overall translation, of Adam Smith's ground-breaking main work, the "Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations". This seminal first translation of the work was undertaken by J.F. Schiller, who finished the first part of the translation in time for it to appear as soon as 1776, the same year as the original English edition. The second part appeared in 1778, the same year as the exceedingly scarce first French translation. This first German translation has been of the utmost importance to the spreading of Smith's ideas throughout Europe, and, after the true first, this must count as the most important edition of the work.

"The influence of the Wealth of Nations [...] in Germany [...] was so great that 'the whole of political economy might be divided into two parts - before and since Adam Smith; the first part being a prelude, and the second a sequel." (Backhouse, Roger E., The Methodology of Economics: Nineteenth-Century British Contributions, Routledge, 1997.)

"The first review of the translation, which appeared in the Göttingische gelehrte Anzeigen for March 10, 1777, by J. G. H. Feder, professor of Philosophy at the University of Göttingen, was very favorable. In the words of the reviewer: "It is a classic; very estimable both for its thorough, not too limited, often far-sighted political philosophy, and for the numerous, frequently discursive historical notes," but the exposition suffers from too much repetition." (Lai, Cheng-chung. Adam Smith Across Nations: Translations and Receptions of The Wealth of Nations, Clarendon Press, UK, 2000).

Until 1797, [...], the work of Adam Smith received scant attention in Germany. While Frederick II was living, Cameralism held undisputed sway in Prussia, and the economic change which began with the outbreak of the French Revolution had still not gained sufficient momentum to awake the economic theorists from their dogmatic slumber." (Lai, Cheng-chung. Adam Smith Across Nations: Translations and Receptions of The Wealth of Nations, Clarendon Press, UK, 2000).

Various German economist read the german translations and was inspired by it.
"Christian Garve, [...], must be considered as among the important contributors to the spread of Smith's views. Himself a popularizer of philosophical doctrines, he was early attracted by the Scotch writers and became one of their foremost exponents in Germany." In 1791 Garve began a second translation of the Smith's work and in the introduction to the the translation he wrote: "It (Smith's work) attracted me as only few books have in the course of my studies through the number of new views which it gave me not only concerning the actual abject of his investigations, but concerning all related material from the philosophy of civil and social life".

Georg Sartorius, August Ferdinand Lueder and, perhaps the most important economist of the period, Christian Jacob Kraus, were all important figures in the spread of Smith's thought.

"The most significant of Kraus' works and that also which shows his conception of economic science most clearly is the five-volume work entitled State Economy. The first four volumes of this work are little more than a free paraphrase of the Wealth of Nations". Kraus was: "to a large extent responsible for the economic changes which took place in Prussia after 1807, in so far as they can be ascribed to Smithan influence." (Lai, Cheng-chung. Adam Smith Across Nations: Translations and Receptions of The Wealth of Nations, Clarendon Press, UK, 2000).

Kraus wrote of the present volume: "[T]he world has seen no more important book than that of Adam Smith.... [C]ertainly since the times of the New Testament no writing has had more beneficial results than this will have.... [Smith's doctrines form] the only true, great, beautiful, just and beneficial system." (Fleischacker, Samuel , A Third Concept of Liberty, Princeton University Press, 1999.)

Hailed as the "first and greatest classic of modern thought" (PMM 221), Adam Smith's tremendously influential main work has had a profound impact on thought and politics, and is considered the main foundation of the era of liberal free trade that dominated the nineteenth century.

Adam Smith (1723-1790) is considered the founder of Political Economy in Britain, mainly due to his groundbreaking work, the "Wealth of Nations" from 1776. The work took him 12 years to write and was probably in contemplation 12 years before that. It was originally published in two volumes in 4to, and was published later the same year in Dublin in three volumes in 8vo. The book sold well, and the first edition, the number of which is unknown, sold out within six months, which came as a surprise to the publisher, and probably also to Smith himself, partly because the work "requires much thought and reflection (qualities that do not abound among modern readers) to peruse to any purpose." (Letter from David Hume, In: Rae, Life of Adam Smith, 1895, p. 286), partly because it was hardly reviewed or noticed by magazines or annuals. In spite of this, it did evoke immense interest in the learned and the political world, and Buckle's words that the work is "in its ultimate results probably the most important book that has ever been written", and that it has "done more towards the happiness of man than has been effected by the united abilities of all the statesmen and legislators of whom history has preserved an authentic account" (History of Civilisation, 1869, I:214) well describes the opinion of a great part of important thinkers then as well as now.

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