Adam Smith help explains why his book is worth so much – leader comment

The philosopher and economist Adam Smith (Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The philosopher and economist Adam Smith (Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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In the book that earned him the accolade “the father of modern economics”, Adam Smith went to great pains to show how the price of wheat had increased over the years.

So, it seems likely that the Kirkcaldy-born giant of the Scottish Enlightenment would have been fascinated to learn that his own copy of The Wealth of Nations, priced at £1 and 16 shillings when it was first published in 1776, has now been valued at between £500,000 and £800,000.

What he would have had to say about the loss of his only other copy, given the value of the first, is open to speculation.

READ MORE: Five Scottish philosophers who helped shape the world

But perhaps he would have been fairly sanguine.

After all, in the book in question, he wrote: “The market price of every particular commodity is regulated by the proportion between the quantity which is actually brought to market, and the demand of those who are willing to pay the natural price of the commodity ...”

So – assuming the same degree of demand for such a historic work – the existence of just one copy, rather than two, means the price is higher.

A simple, but once revolutionary, idea.

READ MORE: Book review: Adam Smith: What He Thought, and Why it Matters by Jesse Norman