12 Pages

General Introduction: Keith Tribe

In 1939 the Kress Library of Business and Economics, a part of the Baker Library of the Harvard Business School, published a catalogue of their by then extensive collection of Adam Smith editions.1 Listing each edition by title and country of publication, one can trace in its pages the way in which the international diffusion of Adam Smith’s ideas was carried forward both by translation, and also by the readiness with which British and American publishers continued to reprint Smith’s two original books – The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. This new bibliography of Smith’s writings takes the Vanderblue Catalogue as its starting point; and during its preparation it quickly became evident that, since the bicentenary of the Wealth of Nations in 1976, the rate of international publication had accelerated significantly. If we start with the decade after Smith’s death, when both works were selling well, and compare it with the that of the 1890s one hundred years later, it is apparent that the rate of publication roughly doubled. One hundred years later, during the 1990s, the number of new editions had doubled again. Quite evidently, this quickening of pace in publication as the work itself becomes older has significantly extended the scope of this bibliography beyond that of 1939, which provided our original benchmark. Its scope has been further enlarged by including essays on aspects of the diffusion process, and, importantly, the bibliography has been systematically annotated and chronologically organised. The notes appended to the entries provide a running commentary to the gathering pace of publication; while the inclusion of all works in the chronological main bibliography gives a ready overview of the scope of the diffusion process.