An Inquiry into the Natures and Causes of the Wealth of Nations - Adam Smith 1796 - Printed for A. Strahan, London - Eighth Edition ‘Published in the same year as the American Declaration of Independence it has been argued that the global effect of Smith’s work has exceeded that of American constitutionalists. And if the wealth of a nation or a people is the foundation of all else, then from Hong Kong and Shanghai to Peru, from the oil and gas fields of Russia to the United States itself, from Estonia to Australia, it can be claimed that the principles and economic dynamics at work in all these places come from a book by a scholar of Scotland published before the French Revolution, before the Industrial Revolution and eighty four years before Das Kapital by Karl Marx.’ - Melvyn Bragg – 12 Books That Changed the World.   Critically regarded as the founding work of modern economic thought, Adam Smith [1723-90] began writing his magnum opus in Toulouse in 1763, spending the next decade in perfecting it. First published in two quarto volumes in 1776, changing to a more manageable three octavo volumes with the third edition of 1784. All of the nine 18th century editions are uncommon in nice contemporary condition.

‘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 as 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 basic elements - wages, profit and rent - and these three also constitute income. From the working of the economy, Smith passes to it’s mater - ‘stock’ - which encompasses 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 and 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.

References:
Printing and the Mind of Man 221. Grolier, 100 English, 57. Kress 7261. Rothschild 1897.
Three volumes. pp. [2] x 499 [3]; [2] vi 518 [5 Appendix] [1]; [2] title [1] v-vii [1] 465 [49 indices] [1 advertisement]
  Three volumes bound in contemporary full tree calf with gilt ruled spines and contrasting morocco title labels and small round volume numbers.   Condition: Very good, with minor wear to the joints, spine ends and corners, internally fresh with some foxing to the preliminary leaves but no chips, tears or markings.   Ref: 101577   Price: HK$ 22,000