Houghton holds a large collection of historical material related to the discipline of economics. Students can, in fact, come into contact with what is probably the most important academic work in their concentration—the first, 1776 editions of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (Econ 429.7.76*, 003625612), considered to be the inception of the capitalist system. The library contains plenty of economic treatises from early modern Europe, which provide fascinating insights into the building of the current economic status quo and illustrate the complex history of the subject. However, studying economics at Houghton can also take on more unorthodox forms, and some of the collection’s pieces are a testament to the versatility of economics and of Houghton.
Multiple items in the collection, especially those who still retain old cataloguing identifications, are excellent sources for the study of historical economics as well as of economic theory. Works such as Adam Anderson’s 1764 History of Commerce (EC75 G3525 Zz764a, 001335207), Thomas Mortimer’s 1772 Elements of Commerce, Politics, and Finance (Econ 200.3.5*, 006153926), and Timothy Cunningham’s 1778 History of the Customs, Aids, Subsidies, National Debts, and Taxes, of England (Econ 213.5.5, 004543398) can, for instance, be compared to modern economic theory to observe and analyze the development of the subject and the economic issues that were solved or that arose with the centuries. Some of these treatises are even more focused, including a pamphlet printed in Boston in 1714 titled A Vindication of the Bank of Credit Projected in Boston (Econ 222.3*, 002329207), which might be of interest to concentrations focusing on United States economic history, and even a 1695 edition of John Locke’s Further Considerations Concerning Raising the Value of Money (Econ 205.1*, 003359450), which can also be assessed in conjunction with the rest of the thinker’s prolific œuvre.
Houghton’s economics collection is not restricted to the English language. Concentrators can also study historical and theoretical economics with volumes such as Théorie des Traités de Commerce entre les Nations (Econ 242.7*, 004539307) and even Memoires de Physique sur l’Art de Fabriquer le Fer (Chem 7237.75, 003024726), which includes a final section on “diverse particular subjects about physics and economics.”
More modern materials in the library related to economics include philosopher Charles S. Peirce’s discussion of Darwin’s theory of natural selection in juxtaposition to Malthus and political economy (MS Am 1632 , 000602456), an interesting union of the life and the social sciences that might be of use to students joint concentrating with, for instance, Human Evolutionary Biology, and a series of broadsides hailing mostly from the interwar period (Econ 13.5) that include items such as “The Economic Position of Europe in Comparison with the U.S.” (005421503).
Finally, Houghton owns a striking specimen of a German 1585 woodblock print titled An Allegory of Commerce whose depiction of economics is at once exquisite and informative, as well as the woodblocks used in the piece’s making (TypR-117, 012127086). The print, a rare item that can also be found at the British Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, is a testament to the importance of economics throughout human history, as well as to the changes in the discipline in the last four hundred years.