‘PRECIOUS AND FILLED WITH USEFUL IDEAS’ (JEFFERSON)

Dissertazione sopra il quesito Indicare le vere teorie, con le quali eseguirsi le stime dei terreni, stabilite le quali abbiano i pratici stimatori delle vere guide, che gli conducono a determinarne il valore …

Faenza, Archi for Antonio Marcheselli (Bologna), 1802.

8vo, pp. 52; insignificant foxing and light waterstaining, but still a good copy, uncut in recent marbled boards.

£400

Approximately:
US $535€453

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Second edition of a paper which won the competition promoted by the Reale Accademia dei Georgofili of Florence in late 1779 for an account of how property should be valued. The 1779–80 competition had elicited, by 1783, four essays which the Academy deemed inadequate and it thereupon reinstated the competition. Three further papers were received. They are discussed in the appendix to this book. Fabbroni’s paper was the clear winner, appearing in first edition in Florence in 1785, and receiving several reprintings in the earlier part of the nineteenth century.

Adamo Fabbroni (1748–1816) receives five and a half pages in the Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, of which one whole page is devoted to the present work. He published on classical antiquity, but the main area of his expertise was agricultural economics. A work on viticulture, Dell’arte di fare il vino (Florence 1787), written jointly with his internationally better-known brother Giovanni (1752–1822), a chemist (and writer on political economy), was a forerunner of Pasteur’s work on fermentation. Giovanni’s Reflexions sur l’état actuel de l’agricuture (Paris, 1780) had a considerable influence on the present work. Adamo’s ‘attitudine a produrre’ or ‘productive capacity’, which he makes the basis of valuation, is calculated by reference to terms taken from Giovanni’s book. Adamo cites three components of value: the area of the land, the commercial value of its produce, and the fertility of the land in relation to its produce. The last point takes account of differences in ownership – a lazy farmer derives less value from land than does an energetic man but this does not mean that the land, intrinsically, is worth less. But it is from Giovanni that he has taken criteria, for example, the quality of humus, and scientific method, for example the use of the micrometer for the measurement of area and chemical analysis for establishing productive capacity. The paper, physiocratic throughout in tone, pleads for a unique tax on the productive capacity of agricultural land.

R. Pasta writes in DBI: ‘… a work on a notable level of technical competence which modernized traditional valuation practice while meeting the demands for perspicuity and clarity made by the Academy’. It is of interest that Thomas Jefferson wrote to Giovanni Fabbroni on 2 March 1786, who had sent him the book, that it was ‘precious and filled with useful ideas’ and ‘particularly applicable to our plan of taxation in America’ (The Papers of Thomas Jefferson).

Rare: Einaudi 1806; not in Goldsmiths’ or Kress; OCLC lists 5 copies of the 1785 edition, but none of the second.

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