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Scottish Thought and Letters in the Eighteenth Century

Introduction - History and Antiquities - Geography - Travels - Encyclopaedias - Libraries - Society and Clubs - Law - Philosophy and Religion- Economy and Social History - Adam Smith - Education Architecture - Science and Medicine- Literature


SMITH, Adam. Holograph letter to David Hume. [Undated, ? August 1765] MS Gen 1035/129

Concerning the departure of Lord Hertford from Paris and the appointment of Lord George Lenox as secretary to the Embassy there. Smith goes on to say 'We propose being in Paris by the beginning of November and it will be the greatest disappointment to the Duke of Buccleugh not to find you there. He has read almost all your works several times over, and was it not for the more wholesome doctrine which I take care to instill into him, I am afraid he might be in danger of adopting some of your wicked Principles.'


SMITH, Adam. Holograph letter to David Hume. [Undated, ? September or October, 1765] MS Gen 1035/130

Smith advises Hume against settling in Paris - 'A man is always displaced in a forreign Country ... They [the French]-live in such large societies, and their affections are dissipated amongst so great a variety of objects, that they can bestow but a very small share of them upon any individual.' Instead Smith recommends London to Hume - 'Your objections to London appear to me to be without foundation.' The hatred of Scotchmen can subsist, even at present, among nobody but the stupidest of the People, and is such a piece of nonsense that it must pall even among them in a twelve month.'


SMITH, Adam. Holograph letter to David Hume. [Dated Kirkaldy, 16th June, 1776] MS Gen 1035/132

Written whilst Hume was gravely ill, in fact only two months before his death. Smith is sceptical of the value of spa waters and instead recommends leisurely travel and a change of air. In the final paragraph he says: 'If I should have the misfortune to survive you, you may depend upon my taking every possible measure which may prevent any thing from being lost which you wish should be preserved.' Hume bequeathed all his manuscripts to Adam Smith with full power over all his papers 'trusting to that intimate and sincere friendship which has ever subsisted between us.'

SMITH, Adam. Review of Dr Johnson's Dictionary of the English language in part 1 of The Edinburgh Review, [January to July 1755] Mu42-i.162

Smith here reviewed Johnson's Dictionary in a not entirely favourable manner. He thought it would have been improved if the author had in the first place more often censured words not of approved use, and if in the second he had, instead of simply enumerating the several meanings of a word, arranged them into classes and distinguished principal from subsidiary meanings. Smith had lectured to his students at Glasgow University about the "heaviness, weakness and affected pedantry" of Johnson's Rambler essays, and had specifically warned that "Of all writers ancient and modern, he that keeps the greatest distance from common sense is Dr Samuel Johnson."


SMITH, Adam. Quaestor accounts, 26 June, 1758, to 26 June, 1760. Manuscript MS Gen 1035/219

Adam Smith was intimately concerned with the University Library during the greater part of his stay in Glasgow. In the mid eighteenth century the University Library was relatively small, having about 5,500 volumes on its shelves - it is interesting to note that Smith's own library in 1781 was more than a third the size of the University Library in 1760.

Smith was quaestor from 1758 until he left Glasgow in 1764, and in that capacity had the management of the Library funds and some other funds. These accounts, written in Smith's own hand, show him recommending the most recently published histories of foreign countries and a series of treatises which would now be classed as economic. Included in the list are seven volumes of Diderot's Encyclopedie, purchased at a cost of 18-0-0.


SMITH, Adam. The theory of moral sentiments.
[London : 1759]

The first edition of Adam Smith's first book, written while he was Professor of Moral Philosophy in Glasgow. 'This is a world.' he says, 'where everything is for the best, under a great benevolent Being who seeks to give the greatest possible amount of happiness here and hereafter.' It is through sympathy we form moral judgments of our actions. We put ourselves in another's place and estimate how the impartial witness would sympathize or not with our conduct. We in this way become spectators of ourselves. 'This is the only looking-glass by which we can in some measure, with the eyes of others, scrutinise the propriety of our own conduct.'

This is a presentation copy from Adam Smith to Henry Home, Lord Kames.


ROBERTSON, William. Holograph letter to Adam Smith. Dated Edinburgh, 14th June [1759] MS Gen 1035/139

Robertson writes about the news that John Home has brought from London of the reception of Smith's Theory of moral sentiments. 'He assures me that it is in the hands of all persons of the best fashion; that it meets with great approbation both on account of the matter and stile ... It comforts the English a good deal to hear that you were bred at Oxford, they claim some part of you on that account...'


SMITH, Adam. Holograph letter signed to Thomas Cadell. Dated
[Edinburgh, 15 March 1788]
MS Gen 1297

A letter from Smith to the publisher and bookseller, Thomas Cadell. It is mainly concerned with Smith's work on revisions and additions to The theory of moral sentiments. He says the most important additions will be to the sections concerning the sense of duty and the history of moral philosophy. With interesting sidelights on Smith's mode of working: 'I am a slow, a very slow workman, who do and undo everything I write at least half a dozen of times before I can be tolerably pleased with it...'

SMITH, Adam. Notes of Dr Smith's rhetorick lectures.
Manuscript. 2 vols;
MS Gen 95/1,2

These are an almost complete set of a student's notes of part of Smith's course on Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University given in his last unbroken academic session as Professor there. They were an elaboration of the public discourses on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres which Smith had given in Edinburgh during the years 1748-1751.

SMITH, Adam. Of the affinity between certain English and Italian verses.
Holograph manuscript
MS Gen 1035/226

This is the earliest form of the essay which was published after Smith's death in Essays on philosophical subjects.


SMITH, Adam. Lecture on I. Division of labour, II. Land and water carriage.
MS Gen 1035/229

This is a very early economic work by Smith, written in the hand of an amanuensis. It is probably one of the lectures which he delivered at Edinburgh in 1748-50.


SMITH, Adam. Juris Prudence or Notes from the lectures on justice, police, revenue, and arms delivered in the University of Glasgow by Adam Smith Professor of Moral Philosophy.
MDCCLXVI. Manuscript. [1766]
MS Gen 109

The text is a fair copy, made by a clerk, of a student's notes of Smith's lectures at Glasgow. There is evidence that the lectures on jurisprudence from which the original notes were taken were delivered in the academic year 1762-3 or in that portion of the session 1763-4 which preceded Smith's departure from Glasgow. Although the original note-taker must have been able and intelligent, the transcription is evidently the work of a person who often did not understand what he had before him.

The manuscript was published in 1896 with an introduction by Edwin Cannan. Cannan showed that the lectures contain much of the material afterwards used in The wealth of nations.


SMITH, Adam. Notes of his Lectures on jurisprudence.
Manuscript. 6 vols
MS Gen 94/1-6

The first lecture is dated 24th December, 1762, and the last is dated 12th April 1763. These are a variant version of Smith's Lectures on jurisprudence. They are differently arranged and often more fully illustrated and explained than those edited by Edwin Cannan.

The manuscripts were in the library at Whitehaugh, belonging to the family of Forbes-Leith, and were acquired at a sale in Aberdeen by John M. Lothian, from whom they were purchased by Glasgow University Library in 1964.


SMITH, Adam. An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations.
[London : 1776]. 2 vols

The history of economic theory up to the end of the nineteenth century consists of two parts: the mercantilist phase which was based not so much on a doctrine as on a system of practice which grew out of social conditions; and the second phase which saw the development of the theory that the individual had the right to be unimpeded in the exercise of economic activity. While it cannot be said that Smith invented the latter theory - the physiocrats had already suggested it and Turgot in particular had constructed an organized study of social wealth - his work is the first major expression of it. He begins with the thought that labour is the source from which a nation derives what is necessary to it. The improvement of the division of labour is the measure of productivity and in it lies the human propensity to barter and exchange: 'labour is the real measure of the exchangeable value of all commodities... it is their real price; money is their nominal price only'. Labour represents the three essential elements -wages, profit and rent - and these three also constitute income. From the working of the economy, Smith passes to its matter -'stock' - which compasses all that man owns either for his own consumption or for the return which it brings him. The Wealth of Nations ends with a history of economic development, a definitive onslaught on the mercantile system, and some prophetic speculations on the limits of economic control. - Printing and the mind of man.

SMITH, Adam. Copy of a letter to Andreas Holt, Undated, ? [October, 1780] MS Gen 1035/133

This is Adam Smith's copy of his letter relative to the Danish translation of The wealth of nations, in the hand of an amanuensis. Andreas Holt-was Commissioner of the Danish Board of Trade and Economy. Smith writes: 'It is not worth while to take notice ... of the innumerable squibs thrown out upon me in the newspapers. I have, however, upon the whole been much less abused than I had reason to expect, so that in this respect I think myself rather lucky than otherwise. A single, and, as I thought, a very harmless Sheet of paper, which I happened to write concerning the death of our late friend, Mr Hume, brought upon me ten times more abuse than the very violent attack I had made upon the whole commercial system of Great Britain.'


SMITH, Adam. An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. The fourth edition. 3 vols [London : 1786] RB 2942-2944

This copy belonged to the poet, Robert Burns, and has his signature on the title page of each volume. Burns was an admirer of Smith, a fact which is apparent in his writings. In a letter to Robert Graham, dated 13 May, 1789, Burns writes: 'Marshall in his Yorkshire and particularly that extraordinary man, Smith in his Wealth of nations, find me leisure employment enough. I could not have given any mere man credit for half the intelligence Mr Smith discovers in his book.'


DESNITSKY, Semen Yefimovich. Slovo o pryamom i blizhayshem sposobe k naucheniyu yurisprudentsii
[Moscow : 1768.]
Sp Coll q601

Amongst Adam Smith's students at Glasgow were two young Russians, Ivan Tretiakov and Semen Desnitsky. Both propagated their teacher's ideas on their return to Russia. Desnitsky was to become the more important of the two; in 1768 he was appointed to the Chair of Roman Law and Russian Jurisprudence at Moscow University. In his published works Desnitsky repeatedly quotes Smith and his knowledge of Smith's ideas can also be seen from the critical notes appended to his Russian translation of William Blackstone's Commentaries on the laws of England. The work on display is an inaugural lecture delivered by Desnitsky at Moscow University. On page 18 Desnitsky mentions that Adam Smith has published 'a Moral Philosophy to the great pleasure of the learned world. In my judgment, if I am not mistaken, Mr Smith's Moral Philosophy is more closely connected with natural jurisprudence than any other system of that science.'

TUCKER, Josiah Reflections on the expediency of opening the trade to Turky.
[London : 1755]
Ad. 5. 10

Bound up with five other pamphlets by Josiah Tucker, economist and divine, who anticipated some of Adam Smith's arguments against monopolies. This volume belonged to Adam Smith and bears his bookplate and a list of the contents in Smith's own hand. Tucker was the author of a tract against 'going to war for the sake of trade' which originated correspondence with, and a translation by, the French economist and administrator, Turgot, one of the Physiocrats.

Over forty volumes originally in Adam Smith's library are now preserved in various collections in Glasgow University Library.