Investigacion de la Naturaleza y Causas de la Riqueza de las Naciones.

Valladolid, ‘En la Oficina de la Viuda é Hijos de Santander, 1794.

Four volumes, 8vo, pp. [xxiv], 464; [iv], 392; [iv], 328; [iv], 499, [1]; including the half-title in first volume (not called for in other three), several gatherings in each volume rather browned, also some foxing in several places, short worm trace in margin of volume II p.295/6 just extending into text and touching a few letters, small wormholes in same volume at end confined to lower margins, contemporary vellum over boards, parts of the original labels still present


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First edition in Spanish. Despite the defects mentioned above a very good unsophisticated copy of the first edition in Spanish of The Wealth of Nations. It was translated by Josef Alfonso Ortiz from the fifth edition of 1789 (although curiously Ortiz cites the as-yet-unpublished 1796 eighth edition), and remained the only edition in Spanish for 150 years. The ideas of Adam Smith had in 1792 received an elucidation of sorts in Spanish, with the publication of Carlos Martínez’s Yrujo y Tacón’s Compendio: a (partial) translation of Condorcet’s summary of The Wealth of Nations. However, the present work would have presented the first opportunity for Spanish-speakers to access Adam Smith’s ideas in their entirety without recourse to English or French-language editions, since Yrujo y Tacón’s translation had been based upon – and, indeed, further paraphrased – what was already a synopsis, while omitting passages that risked offending the ever-prickly Inquisition (who had already placed the French translation of the Wealth of Nations upon the Index).

That Ortiz’s translation was published with the approval of both the Royal Council and the Inquisition would suggest a significant mollification of the Spanish authorities’ attitude towards Adam Smith’s writing. With a growing number of educated Spaniards becoming acutely conscious of their country’s status as one of Europe’s economic backwaters, the Establishment realised that innovative theories could not always be rejected on the basis of religious dogma. Ortiz was therefore able to publish the translation with just a few textual ‘adjustments’, in particular with respect to usury and church tithes (the section on English malt tax was entirely omitted, although for reasons of relevance rather than of ideology).

Far from being a mere passive propagator of Smith’s writing in his native country, Ortiz seems to have taken a rather vigorously ‘interactive’ view of translation. Interspersing the text with a large number of footnotes, Ortiz provides analogous (and contrasting) Spanish examples to descriptions of England, and even occasionally questions Smith’s historical accuracy, particularly with regard to matters of Spanish economic and colonial policy: ‘No fawning adulator of the Glasgow professor, Ortiz gives the lie to Spanish writers who have ridiculed their countrymen for blind acceptance of economic liberalism’ (R. S. Smith in Adam Smith across Nations, p. 321). Interestingly, Ortiz’s translation (reprinted in 1805–6) remained the sole Spanish-language edition of The Wealth of Nations until 1956.

Tribe 53; Vanderblue, p. 31; Goldsmiths’ 15932l; Kress 2832; see R.S. Smith’s essay, ‘The Wealth of Nations in Spain and Hispanic America, 1780 –1830’ pp. 313–326 in Cheng-chung Lai, Adam Smith across Nations.