Essai d’économie politique …

Basel, Decker brothers, 1785.

4to, pp. [2], 45, [1] blank; with 4 large folding tables; engraved agricultural view to title; all pages printed within a two-line border; contemporary ink ownership inscription to the front free endpaper; small wormhole to Table IV, with loss of one character; some light offsetting to the tables, a very good copy in contemporary boards, a little soiled, spine darkened and slightly worn, with a gilt morocco lettering-piece and MS shelflabels to spine.


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First and only edition of a rare work of comparative economic theory, in which the author presents tables illustrating four different aspects of a state’s political economy. The tables themselves show the economic situation in terms of population, agriculture, and receipts and expenditure.

The Essai is eminently practical. Heinitz (also Heynitz, 1725–1802), a Saxon by birth, attended the Universities of Dresden and Freiberg, where he studied mining and smelting. Brief appointments in Brunswick and Sweden then led him back to Saxony which, after the Seven Years War, was keen to reform its economic base. In 1765, he was put in charge of mining, smelting, and forestry in Saxony and immediately founded the Bergakademie Freiberg, now the oldest mining school in the world.

Soon his fame, and that of the success of the Saxon mines, had spread, and in 1776 Heinitz transferred to the service of Frederick II of Prussia. He presented the King with a major plan to reform the mines, supporting their production with new taxation and customs policies and an improved infrastructure of roads and canals. He was also keen to replace the smelting practices, a hangover from medieval times, with modern steam-engine technology. Although his plans were rejected by Frederick, Heinitz nevertheless persisted in attempting to improve the economic and social status of miners and foundry workers by means of house-building schemes and a benefit fund for those who had fallen on hard times. In this, Heinitz was a direct forerunner of the great Prussian refomers of the early nineteenth century.

The Essai appeared in a German version, Tabellen über die Staatswirthschaft …, at Leipzig the following year. Heinitz’s only other work was a treatise on mineral production in Prussia, with suggestions for its improvement, which likewise appeared in both French and German, in 1786.

Barbier II, col. 202; not found in Goldsmiths’, Humpert or Kress; OCLC lists microfilm copies only.

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