An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. With A Life of the Author, an Introductory Discourse, Notes, and Supplemental Dissertations by J. R. M Culloch, Esq. - Adam Smith, J. R. McCulloch 1828 - Printed for Adam Black, Edinburgh - First McCulloch Edition Four volumes in contemporary bindings, with a portrait frontispiece of Smith in Volume 1 after the Tassie bust. ‘Of real importance is [this] edition by John Ramsay McCulloch (1828) which contains a life of Smith and numerous notes, first published in four volumes and later in single-volume editions which for some three decades were used by students almost to the exclusion of others’. [Bullock]

First published in 1776, ‘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.

Reputedly stolen by Gypsies at the age of three, Smith grew up to become one of the pillars of the Scottish Enlightenment, winning fame as a moral philosopher as well as an economist. In 'The Wealth of Nations,' Smith laid the intellectual foundations for a liberal free-market society, and in so doing revolutionised the understanding of how societies, governments, and markets interact. He always insisted, from 'The Theory of Moral Sentiments' onwards, that the 'invisible hand of the market' would regulate capitalist impulses and channel excessive behaviour into productive and beneficent projects. 'The Wealth of Nations' further addresses questions of sovereignty of colonies, the origins of coinage, and the concept of credit, all of which would have a profound influence on the germinating United States of America, which declared independence in July 1776, the same year that Smith's work was first published.
  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.

‘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’. [PMM]

References:
Printing and the Mind of Man, 221. Grolier, One Hundred Books Famous in English Literature, 57. Kress 7261. Charles J. Bullock, introductory essay to the Vanderblue catalogue, x.

Four octavo volumes (binding size 14.8x22cm), pp. [2] 420 [2]; viii 505 [3]; vii [1] 507 [3]; x 634 [2].
  Finely bound in full tan calf, spines with gilt decorations and twin black morocco labels lettered in gilt, decorated board edges, speckled edges, grey coated endpapers.   Condition: Near fine, light foxing to title pages and portrait, in very good bindings, spines dulled, some wear to edges and corners.   Ref: 111871   Price: HK$ 25,000