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“the greatest paper in mathematical economics that was ever written”

VON NEUMANN, JOHN, ET AL. (English) Ergebnisse eines mathematischen Kolloquiums, unter Mitwirkung Kurt Gödel und George Nobeling. Herausgegen von Kurt Menger. Heft 1-8.

Leipzig & Berlin: B. G. Teubner and F. Deuticke, [1931-1937].

Numbers 1-8 (complete), bound together in contemporary blue buckram without wrappers. Pagination: 31; 38; 26; 45; 42; 47; 61; 84. Near fine.

“one of the great seminal works of the century” — Goodwin

A rare complete run of first editions of the proceedings of the celebrated Vienna Colloquium. This landmark collection of papers in mathematical economics includes John von Neumann’s famed 1937 general equilibrium paper, “the greatest paper in mathematical economics that was ever written” (E. Roy Weintraub) and “one of the great seminal works of the century” (Richard Goodwin).

The Vienna Colloquium, run by the mathematician Karl Menger in the 1930s, brought together leading thinkers in mathematics, the physical sciences, philosophy, statistics, and economics. The resulting series of publications contains “path-breaking papers by Menger, Gödel, Tarski, Wald, Wiener, John von Neumann, and many others” (IIT Menger website).

This is a complete run of numbers 1-8. The rare final three numbers contain the four seminal papers on mathematical economics by Schlesinger, Wald (two papers), and von Neumann. “The starting signal for the development that would bring a profound transformation to mathematical economics was given by Schlesinger. In the first paper on economics of the Colloquium presented on March 19, 1934 … he raised a question aimed at the center of Walrasian theory… Schlesinger suggested a modification of Leon Walras’s (and Gustav Cassel’s) equations that soon turned out to be essential. … Immediately after that correct formulation was given, Wald proved the existence of a GE [general equilibrium] (also on March 19, 1934), and, at the next session of the Colloquium, on November 6, 1934, established existence under much weaker conditions. His two papers, providing the first proofs of existence for a GE, marked an important moment in the history of mathematical economics” (Gérard Debreu, “Economics in a Mathematics Colloquium”).

“John von Neumann’s famous 1937 paper, appearing in the final number, is “Über ein ökonomisches Gleichungssystem und eine Verallgemeinerung des Brouwerschen Fixpunktsatzes” (“On a System of Economic Equilibrium and the Generalization of Brouwer’s Fixed Point Theorem”). This paper has been called “the greatest paper in mathematical economics that was ever written” (Weintraub, J. Economic Literature, 1983). It precipitated what Moroshima called a veritable “von Neumann Revolution” in general equilibrium, capital and growth theory. Through this paper and his work on the theory of games, von Neumann had enormous influence on the subject of economics, though he wrote only three papers in the field.

“The expanding economy model, von Neumann (1937), consisted of two parts: first the input-output equilibrium model that permits expansion; and second the fixed point theorem. The linear input- output model is a precursor of the Leontief model of linear programming as developed by Kantorovich and Dantzig, and of Koopman’s activity analysis. This paper, together with A. Wald (1935) [also in this volume] raised the level of mathematical sophistication used in economics enormously. Many current younger economists are high-powered applied mathematicians, in part, because of the stimulus of von Neumann’s work. … His influence will persist for decades and even centuries in economics” (New Palgrave).

Complete sets of the Ergebnisse eines mathematischen Kolloquiums are rare, though runs of the first few numbers (lacking the great mathematical economics papers) do appear from time to time. The rarity of the later numbers may be connected with the Anschluss, the German annexation of Austria in March 1938, which drove leading intellectuals from Europe and seems to have led to the suppression of the publication in Vienna.

The only complete set to appear for public sale in recent years brought £37,500 at Christie’s in November 2014.

Many current younger economists are high- powered applied mathematicians, in part, because of the stimulus of von Neumann’s work. … His influence will persist for decades and even centuries in economics” —New Palgrave

$55,000