Principes de tout gouvernement, ou Examen des causes de la splendeur ou de la foiblesse de tout État considéré en lui-même, & indépendamment des moeurs.

Paris, J. Th. Hérissant fils, 1766.

Two vols in one, 12mo, pp. lxxx, 213, [1] blank; [iv], 314, [4] privilège; light waterstain to the upper corner of a couple of leaves in the preliminaries; upper edge lightly browned throughout, with the odd spot elsewhere; a nice, crisp copy in contemporary full mottled calf, marbled endpapers, red edges, spine tooled gilt in compartments, with an armorial gilt stamp to the bottom compartment, raised bands, with a gilt morocco lettering-piece.

£2800

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Rare first edition of an important contribution to the population debate by Claude-François Joseph d’Auxiron (1728–1778), a major anti-physiocratic economist before Malthus and a significant early advocate of mathematical economics.

‘Auxiron’s work is significant chiefly because of his analysis of the determinants of population capacity, and his treatment of the relation between population growth and the interoccupational and interclass movements and balance in society’ (Spengler, French Predecessors of Malthus, p. 296). Auxiron stressed the importance of commerce in the attainment of maximum yield from the given land area of any country, allowing for specialisation through trading, thereby creating a wealth-induced population expansion which would be impossible in a closed economy. He opposed Rousseau’s beliefs on the relationship between labour and production. ‘Si la terre rendoit … proportion des travaux de ceux qui la cultivent, comme certains Auteurs l’ont avancé ce que nous disons ici seroit entièrement faux. Mais l’expérience de tous les lieux & de tous les siècles fait voir que la fécondité de la terre ne dépend pas uniquement des travaux des hommes … Il est étonnante,’ he continues, ‘que de tous les auteurs, ce soit M. Rousseau de Genêve qui ait le plus fortement soutenu la proposition que je combats, lui avoit sous les yeux la preuve la plus convaincante du contraire’ (II, 302–4).

Higgs 3943; INED 145; Kress 6314; not in Einaudi or Goldsmiths’; uncommon: further copies are recorded at Berkeley, Princeton, and Syracuse Universities; see Perrot, Une histoire intellectuelle d’économie politique (1992), for a detailed discussion of Auxiron’s work.

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