Olbie, ou Essai sur les moyens de réformer les moeurs d’une nation.

Paris, Deterville and Treuttel & Wurtz, ‘an VIII de la République’ [1799–1800].[bound with:][ANON]. Principes politiques, par F. M. S***. Paris, Magimel, Anselin et Pochard, Décembre 1818.

Two works in one volume, 8vo, pp. xi, [1], 132; [2 blank]; [2], 28; Say: with an extra leaf inserted after the half-title, bearing an engraved vignette showing a trial scene with a caption; fine copies, clean and crisp, uncut in the original orange boards, flat spine filleted in gilt with a contrasting gilt lettering-piece; some loss to orange paper at upper joint and foot of spine, label slightly chipped, some rubbing to covers and extremities; Say’s dedication inscription to Mr. Dubois Du Bais penned on an extra leaf inserted after the first title-page, and a later inscription by one of Dubois Du Bais descendants in red ink on the front free endpaper.


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Presentation copy with the author’s inscription of the rare first edition of Say’s utopia, written in response to a competition organised by the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques on the question: ‘Quelles sont les institutions capables de fonder la morale chez un peuple?’. Say treats the question from an economic viewpoint, and this work can, in some ways, be seen as a preface to his Traité d’économie politique of 1803.

With Olbie, ‘Say instaurait un ordre nouveau sur les ruines de la monarchie absolue, ordre basé sur la raison: “Ainsi le premier livre de morale fut-il, pour les Olbiens, un bon traité d’économie politique.” En Olbie, les femmes ont des emplois réservés à leurs capacités, les ouvriers des caisses de prévoyance. Enfin, l’oisiveté est stigmatisée, ainsi que les vices: “Il en coûte plus pour nourrir un vice que pour élever deux enfants”, lit-on dans les bâtiments publics’ (Versins, Encyclopédie de l’utopie et de la science fiction, p. 798).

The work bound after Say’s is an exceedingly rare item, of which one copy only is recorded in OCLC (BnF): a work of political philosophy which places the notion of force/strength at the centre of its examination of governments. The unidentified author sees the dynamics between government and oppositions in terms of physics: if the two opposing forces are equal, inertia is the result. This inertia is what blights many European governments, he claims. Public opinion is the resulting figure of the sum of individual minds. Any governing body ought to – first and foremost – count its heads. The author goes on advising states on how to deal with public opposition to taxation when seen as too high. His definition of a working and modern state, which he sees as a democracy, consists of ‘citizens all equal before the law; a monarch or head who is elected and temporary; a chamber of representatives re-nominated at regular intervals’ (transl. from pp. 18-19).

Say: Einaudi 5117; INED 4109; Kress B.4266; Negley 1002; not in Goldsmiths’; I. OCLC records only six locations in North America, at Columbia, Yale, Harvard, Virginia Tech, Berkeley, and the Hagley Museum; II. OCLC records only one copy, at the BnF.

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