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The German Reception of Adam Smith: Keith Tribe

By 1800, Theory of Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations had both been translated twice into the German language. Kosegarten’s second 1791 translation1 of Theory of Moral Sentiments remained the standard version until 1926, when the first scholarly edition was published, edited by Walther Eckstein. This became in turn the standard edition, and is still in print.2 We might infer from the lengthy gap between 1791 and 1926 that Theory of Moral Sentiments made little impact upon German readers compared with Wealth of Nations, which appeared in some fifteen new translations and editions up to the 1930s. Certainly this view seems to have been adopted by later commentators,3 many of whom in writing of Smith’s general influence neglect to mention Theory of Moral Sentiments at all.4 But as with almost all the literature on national receptions of Wealth of Nations, the histories constructed in these accounts peter out in the early decades of the nineteenth century, adhering to the broad conventionalised chronology already outlined in the General Introduction.5