Leading theorist of Mercantilism
MUN, THOMAS. A Discourse of Trade from England unto the East-Indies: answering the diverse objections which are usually made against the same
London: Nicholas Okes for John Pyper, 1621
Eighteenth-century calf. Bound with three other works (see below). Fine condition.
FIRST EDITION. Mun served on the board of the East India Company from 1615 until his death in 1641. This is his first publication. In the Discourse on Trade (1621), Mun defends the company against charges of depleting England’s bullion stock—and thus its wealth—by sending it to the East Indies in exchange for goods. Mun, also known for England’s Treasure by Foreign Trade, published in 1664, years after his death, was the leading theorist of mercantilism. In the Discourse, Mun argued that the temporary export of gold and silver resulted in a net expansion of wealth through the growth of international trade.
In Mun’s view, the trading universe was essentially a coherent and mutually supporting community. Too much frugality at home would restrict foreign purchases of English good, he warned, for if the English did not use foreign goods, foreigners would not have the wherewithal to buy English ones and there would be no sale abroad. . .. [Mun presents a] succinct and compelling explanation of the dynamics of growth through commercial expansion” (Appleby, Economic Thought and Ideology in 17th-Century England).
VERY RARE. No copies appear in the auction records since 1979. This is one of a handful of copies to appear for sale in this century.
Mun’s Discourse is bound with 3 other rare 17th-century tracts on trade:
“the earliest example of corporation publicity”
WHEELER, JOHN. A Treatise of Commerce wherein are shewed the commodities arising by a well ordered and ruled trade, such as that of the Societie of Merchants Adventurers is proved to be. London: John Harrison, 1601.
Wheeler’s Treatise of Commerce is “the earliest example of corporation publicity” and “an important milestone in the development of marketing. … It represents the characteristically medieval theory of the trade monopoly, bolstered by monarchical authority and jealously guarded against competition” (Hotchkiss). This is the second edition, preceded by the even more rare Middleburgh edition of the same year. Wheeler was secretary to the Company of Merchant Adventurers, which controlled the trade of cloth between England and the continent. This book is a response to the Privy Council’s granting of trade privileges to the Company’s rival Hanseatic League cities of Hamburg and Stade. Wheeler argues for the superiority of the Company over unorganized traders, extolling the Company’s beneficial effects such as increasing exports, cheapening imports, and raising customs revenue.
HANDBOOK FOR TRADERS
[BROWNE, JOHN.] The Merchants Avizo, or instructions very necessary for their sonnes and servants, when they first send them beyond the sea, as to Spaine, and Portugale, and other countries. Written by a wel-willer to youth, I.B. merchant in Bristoll. London: Richard Whitaker, 1640.
The Merchants Avizo, first published in 1589, provides information about Spanish, Portuguese, and French weights, measures, and money, as well as commodities including pepper, cloves, cinnamon, sugar, oils, and wine.
THE WEST INDIES TRADE
DALBY, THOMAS. An Historical Account of the Rise and Growth of the West-India Collonies and of the great advantages they are to England, in respect to trade. London: Joseph Hindmarsh, 1690.
FIRST EDITION. Merchant Sir Thomas Dalby published his Historical Account after a failed attempt to repeal the new sugar duty with threatened the West Indies trade. Dalby advocates the creation of a common factory and bank of credit to facilitate the trade.
The 17th-century economics tracts that survive in private hands have almost invariably been broken out of volumes like this and rebound. This exceptional collection, including Mun’s celebrated Discourse on Trade and other important early economics and trade texts, is a rare survival.