An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

Author: Adam Smith

The text of the present edition is copied from that of the fifth, the last published before Adam Smith's death. The fifth edition has been carefully collated with the first, and wherever the two were found to disagree the history of the alteration has been traced through the intermediate editions. With some half-dozen utterly insignificant exceptions such as a change of 'these' to 'those,' 'towards' to 'toward,' and several haphazard substitutions of 'conveniences' for 'conveniencies,' the results of this collation are all recorded in the footnotes, unless the difference between the editions is quite obviously and undoubtedly the consequence of mere misprints, such as 'is' for 'it,' 'that' for 'than,' 'becase' for 'because'. Even undoubted misprints are recorded if, as often happens, they make a plausible misreading which has been copied in modern texts, or if they present any other feature of interest.

As it does not seem desirable to dress up an eighteenth century classic entirely in twentieth century costume, I have retained the spelling of the fifth edition and steadily refused to attempt to make it consistent with itself. The danger which would be incurred by doing so may be shown by the example of 'Cromwel'. Few modern readers would hesitate to condemn this as a misprint, but it is, as a matter of fact, the spelling affected by Hume in his History, and was doubtless adopted from him by Adam Smith, though in the second of the two places where the name is mentioned inadvertence or the obstinacy of the printers allowed the usual 'Cromwell' to appear till the fourth edition was reached. I have been equally rigid in following the original in the matter of the use of capitals and italics, except that in deference to modern fashion I have allowed the initial words of paragraphs to appear in small letters instead of capitals, the chapter headings to be printed in a large size of upper and lower case roman instead of small italics, and the abbreviation 'Chap.' to be replaced by 'Chapter' in full. I have also allowed each chapter to begin on a fresh page, as the old practice of beginning a new chapter below the end of the preceding one is inconvenient to a student who desires to use the book for reference. The useless headline, 'The Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations,' which appears at the top of every pair of pages in the original has been replaced by a headline which changes with every chapter and, where possible, with every formal subdivision of a chapter, so that the reader who opens the book in the middle of a long chapter with several subdivisions may discover where he is immediately. The composition of these headlines has not always been an easy matter, and I hope that critics who are inclined to condemn any of them will take into account the smallness of the space available.

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