THE INGENIOUS ART OF SPECULATION: A MAN MAY SELL WHAT HE HAS NOT, AND GROW RICH

The perils of Pearl Street, including a taste of the dangers of Wall Street, by a late merchant.

New York, Betts & Anstice and Peter Hill, 1834.

8vo in 6s, pp. 232; occasional light spotting and staining, a small abrasion to the title-page, but a very good copy, slightly skewed in contemporary pebble-grained cloth, spine with slight loss at the head, remnants of a gilt spine label, lower cover a little stained, with an ink ownership inscription dated 1842 to the front free endpaper and another in pencil.

£2750

Approximately:
US $3424€3199

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First edition of a very early Wall Street novella, the fictional tale of Billy Hazard, an innocent carpenter’s son from rural New York state determined to make it as a merchant in the city. Billy’s attempts to establish himself in the mercantile trade in New York City are ultimately unsuccessful as his unhappy combination of gullibility and ignorance conspire to ruin him with a succession of three major failures. Billy’s financial misadventures are perfectly illustrated in a passage recounting his foray into the Stock Market at the urging of his partner, his third and final failure:

‘“I have no money,” said I; “my losses of late have been most severe, and I am just on the verge of bankruptcy.” “So much the better,” said he; “you will now have a chance of retrieving your fortune. As for money, that is altogether unnecessary. I have none; and yet I have made a bold push in the stocks, and am about making another … “but I do not see how we’re to proceed without money.” “Oh, the easiest thing in the world,” replied he. “We are not to buy stocks; but to sell them.”’ His partner goes on to explain that ‘it is one of the ingenious arts of modern speculation, that a man may sell what he has not, and grow rich upon the proceeds’ (p. 224). The two undertake to sell stock on time, agreeing a deal to sell United States Bank stock at a certain price after 60 days. Assured by his partner that the stock will fall greatly in the intervening period, at which point they will be able to buy the promised stock at a low price in order to sell it for the higher figure agreed two months before, poor Hazard enthusiastically agrees. The stock remains at a high price, and Hazard is completely ruined.

More than just a humorous novel of the financial mishaps of a gullible young man, The Perils of Pearl Street provides a compelling and in-depth portrayal of the New York City financial world of the 1830s.

Sabin 28584. Not in Taylor or Westbrook.

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