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GENERAL PREFACE - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 1 Principles of Political Economy and Taxation 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 1 Principles of Political Economy and Taxation.
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First published by Cambridge University Press in 1951. Copyright 1951, 1952, 1955, 1973 by the Royal Economic Society. This edition of The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo is published by Liberty Fund, Inc., under license from the Royal Economic Society.
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When Ricardo’s Letters to Trower were published in 1899 (the last of three similar collections) the editors of that volume remarked in their Introduction: ‘Two appreciable desiderata still remain—literary evidence of his long and close intimacy with James Mill, and the important “Notes on Malthus”’. They concluded that further knowledge of Ricardo would have to wait ‘until some fortunate accident or more successful search’ brought these to light. The Notes on Malthus have since been found and published; and the last big gap is now filled by the discovery of both sides of the extensive correspondence between Ricardo and James Mill which is here published for the first time.
Moreover, the letters of Malthus to Ricardo have been found and are first published in the present edition. Of these, long believed lost, Professor Foxwell had written in 1907 (when publishing in the Economic Journal a solitary letter which had survived): ‘The loss of Malthus’ share in this correspondence may be ranked by economists next to that other literary disaster, the destruction of David Hume’s comments on the “Wealth of Nations.”’1
It is perhaps unique in economic literature for the writings, letters and speeches of one thinker to have such unity of subject matter (as is the case with Ricardo) that, although his works and correspondence are extant almost complete, they admit of publication virtually in their entirety as being all of them of interest to the economist. A certain amount of repetition is inevitable in the publication in full of this material. Nevertheless, to have the same doctrines presented at successive stages of their development, in varied contexts and to different audiences has evident advantages. At the same time so much of Ricardo’s writing consists of discussion with contemporaries as to require the inclusion of much of their contribution in the form of letters and extracts from writings and speeches.
Most of the new material in the present edition will be found in the four volumes of Letters (vols. VI-IX). Besides the correspondence with Mill and the letters from Malthus and other correspondents, these volumes include a number of new miscellaneous letters of Ricardo. Altogether well over half of the 555 letters have not been previously published. Several new papers and notes are appended to the volumes of Pamphlets and Papers (vols. III-IV): of these the one most likely to attract attention is the unfinished paper on ‘Absolute Value and Exchangeable Value’ on which Ricardo had been engaged in the last weeks of his life. The speeches in the House of Commons, hitherto scattered over eleven volumes of Hansard, have been collected in vol. V, which also contains his speeches on other occasions and his evidence to Parliamentary Committees. The Notes on Malthus in vol. II are accompanied by the relevant text of Malthus. For the Principles in vol. I the variants of the several editions are given in full in notes and are analysed in the Introduction. In general, editorial Introductions or Notes, which are prefixed to each of Ricardo’s works, are confined to an account of the immediate occasion from which that work arose and of the circumstances in which it was written.
When the search for unpublished manuscripts for the present edition started in 1930 a large box labelled ‘Papers of the late D. Ricardo, Esq. M.P.’ was discovered by Mr Frank Ricardo at Bromesberrow Place, near Ledbury, formerly the residence of Ricardo’s eldest son, Osman. This, which had lain untouched for nearly a hundred years, turned out to contain practically all the letters of permanent interest received by Ricardo as well as drafts and other papers of his own. It has been the largest single source of new material and it constitutes the bulk of what in the present edition is referred to as the ‘Ricardo Papers’ (abbreviated to ‘R.P.’). A bundle of similar papers, which had become separated from the main body, was found earlier by Mr Frank Ricardo and these were published by Professor J. H. Hollander while the present edition was in preparation, so that it was possible to include them as well. Other manuscripts were subsequently traced, among them being smaller groups of letters to John Murray, to Francis Horner and to J.-B. Say.
The result was that all the series of Ricardo’s letters to his chief correspondents and theirs to him were to hand, except his letters to James Mill. Yet it was just these which, having presumably been inherited by John Stuart Mill, one might have expected above all to be preserved. There was, on the other hand, Bain’s disquieting statement in the preface to his biography of James Mill (1882) that ‘several valuable collections of letters have been destroyed.’ Moreover, while the papers of John Stuart Mill, which were dispersed at auction in 1922, included a parcel containing letters addressed to James Mill, none of these when traced to their ultimate buyers proved to be from Ricardo. Years of systematic enquiry among the numerous descendants of Mill and their executors and friends in all parts of the world met with no success; and it looked as though this edition would have to appear with the last gap no more than half-filled.
Then, in July 1943, quite unexpectedly, a locked metal box was found by Mr C. K. Mill in the house of his father-in-law, Mr F. E. Cairnes, at Raheny, Co. Dublin; and on the box being opened by a locksmith the first thing to appear was a brown paper parcel addressed to J. S. Mill, Esq., India House, City, and inscribed ‘Mr David Ricardo’s Manscripts’. This parcel proved to contain the whole series of letters to Mill as well as a number of new writings of Ricardo which also had belonged to James Mill. All the papers were promptly and generously placed at the disposal of the editor by the owners, through the good offices of Professor O’Brien and Professor Hayek. Reporting to Lord Keynes on the importance of this discovery, Professor O’Brien wrote from Dublin: ‘It can almost be compared with the find of the Boswell manuscripts in the box at Malahide Castle. Curiously enough Malahide Castle and Raheny, where Mr Cairnes lives, are quite close together.’
The remaining contents of the box were papers of John Elliot Cairnes, the economist, who was father of Mr F. E. Cairnes. The Ricardo manuscripts had no doubt come to him from his intimate friend John Stuart Mill, either directly or more probably through the latter’s literary executrix, Miss Helen Taylor.
Previous to this, by the summer of 1940, six volumes of the present edition had been set up in page-proof, while the volume of Speeches and Evidence had reached the stage of galley-proofs. The discovery of these ‘Mill-Ricardo papers’ made it necessary, when work on the edition was resumed after the war, to break up the three volumes of letters (since they were arranged in chronological order) and to expand them to four volumes. At the same time the additions to the volume of Pamphlets and Papers required its division into two volumes. The resultant nine volumes are now in course of publication; and it is hoped to complete the Works and Correspondence of Ricardo with a volume of biographical and bibliographical miscellany, and a General Index.
In 1948 Mr Maurice Dobb came in to assist with the editorial work, in particular being associated in the writing of the Introductions to vols. I, II, V and VI.
The fact that such a long time has elapsed since much of the early work on this edition was carried out has resulted in certain anomalies in editorial references. This will be specially noticeable in the case of references to persons who have died in the interim. Moreover, in some cases, manuscripts which are mentioned as being in the possession of a private owner have been transferred to public collections (and others may be before this edition is completed). It is hoped in the tenth volume to bring this type of information up-to-date.
It would be impossible to acknowledge in this Preface all the debts incurred in the preparation of the present edition. Help received in connection with particular points is mentioned in the appropriate places, and acknowledgement here must be confined to those persons to whom the greatest obligations have been incurred or whose help has extended to the edition as a whole.
The initiative in launching this enterprise was due to the late Lord Keynes, who to the end of his life showed the closest interest and lent his active support, particularly in the search for unpublished material and in advising on the planning and annotation of the volumes. His successor as Secretary of the Royal Economic Society, Professor Austin Robinson, has continued his interest and assistance to the progress of the edition. To both of them, as well as to the Council of the Society, a special debt must be acknowledged for their forbearance toward the delays and interruptions in the editing of these volumes.
Thanks are first of all due to the late Lt.-Col. H. G. Ricardo and to Mr Frank Ricardo for their generous cooperation and for permission to publish such of the writings of their ancestor as are copyright; in particular to the former for the loan of books and documents at Gatcombe, and to the latter for his fruitful search for manuscripts, for making available those in his possession and for much trouble taken in securing others. Acknowledgement must also be made to Mr C. K. Mill, to the late Mr F. E. Cairnes and to Mr Robert Malthus for making available important collections of papers in their possession and for waiving any copyright that might belong to them; to Sir John Murray for the loan of letters and for valuable information from the records of his publishing house; to the late Sir Bernard Mallet for permission to quote extensively from the unpublished Diaries of John Lewis Mallet in his possession; to Lady Langman, M. Edgar Raoul-Duval and Professor H. E. Butler for allowing access to letters in their possession; to the Delegates of the Oxford University Press, to The Johns Hopkins Press and to the American Economic Association for permission to reprint writings of Ricardo published by them; and finally, for valuable assistance, advice or information, to the late Dr James Bonar, Professor Jacob Viner, Professor F. A. Hayek, Professor George O’Brien, the late Professor Edwin Cannan, Sir Theodore Gregory, Mr Nicholas Kaldor and Dr R. Mattioli.
Indispensable help of a general nature (apart from what is acknowledged in particular places) has been given at various times in the capacity of editorial assistant by Dr Eduard Rosenbaum, Dr Karl Bode, Mrs Barbara Lowe and, for shorter periods, Miss Margery Seward and Mrs Lucy Munby.
Finally, the editor must record a particular obligation to the printers of the Cambridge University Press for the unfailing patience and sure judgment upon which he has been able to rely throughout the twenty years that this edition has been ‘in the press’.
trinity collegecambridgeDecember 1950
[1 ]But see vol. XI, p. xxvii.