THE FIRST PROPER SPATIAL MODEL‘THE FIRST TO DEVELOP AN EXACT DEFINITION OF MARGINAL PRODUCTIVITY

Der isolirte Staat in Beziehung auf Landwirthschaft und Nationalökonomie …[Part I and part II/1].

Rostock, G. B. Leopold, 1842–50.

2 parts in one vol., 8vo, pp. xv, [1] blank, 391, [1] imprint; vi, 285, [1] imprint; with 3 folding tables, and 4 hand-coloured diagrams on one plate at the end of the first part; some light foxing and browning in places, but still a very good copy, complete with the half-titles, in contemporary cloth-backed boards, flat spine lettered gilt, very lightly rubbed at extremities; small ink-stamped ownership mark on the front free end-paper (‘Dr. Feilen').

£4500

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Scarce second edition of the first part, revised and enlarged, being the repository of Thünen’s major theories, and the edition used by Roscher in his Geschichte der National-Oekonomik, here bound with the first edition of part II/1, the last to be published during the author’s lifetime; he died in 1850; all four parts would only be first published together in 1875.

The second edition of the first part – subtitled Untersuchungen über den Einfluss, den die Getreidepreise, der Reichthum des Bodens und die Abgaben auf den Ackerbau ausüben – contains Thünen’s analysis of rent, location and resource allocation. As Thünen states in the preface, important additions had been made, particularly to the ‘statics of the soil’ and the ‘theory of rent’, which form two central ideas of his theory (see The New Palgrave). ‘What a book it is! ... only Thünen had the vision to postulate an abstract spatial model that highlights the role of distance and area by its very construction’ (Blaug, p. 247).

It is in the second part – Der naturgemäße Arbeitslohn und dessen Verhältniß zum Zinsfuß und zur Landrente (1850) – that Thünen reveals his marginal productivity theory of distribution. ‘He was the first to develop an exact definition of marginal productivity in the modern sense (although he did not use the term) and to apply the principle generally in the theory of production and distribution. He was a founder of mathematical economics and of econometrics, combining systematic empirical research with a genius for abstract reasoning and generalization ... Von Thünen’s book won him considerable recognition during his lifetime. According to Schumacher (1868), Rodbertus credited von Thünen with bringing to economics the rare combination of a most exact method and a human heart, and the British Parliament used von Thünen’s calculations of the grain production of the European continent in its deliberations on the corn laws ... Alfred Marshall acknowledged a major debt to von Thünen’ (IESS). Marshall wrote: ‘I had come into economics out of ethics, intending to stay there only a short while; and to go back, as soon as I was in a position to speak with my enemies in the gate, that is, with those men of affairs who dashed cold water on my youthful schemes for regenerating the world by saying “Ah! you would not talk in that way, if you knew anything about business, or even Political Economy.” And I loved von Thünen above all my other masters. Professor Fisher has cared for Cournot. I wish someone would care for von Thünen’ (Memorials of Alfred Marshall, p. 360).

Goldsmiths’ 32592 and 36776; Humpert 7984; Kress C.5974; Menger, cols 99 and 1013.

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